"Phileas embarks on an adventure to find quality tea leaves."
Gunpowder is a short film about an English adventurer who travels to the far East to get the finest tea leaves. Inspired by the stories of French writer Jules Verne, the film summons one of his characters, Phileas Fogg, for one more trip around the world. Gunpowder was created by six talented artists as their graduation project at renowned French school Supinfocom / Rubika.
One main character complemented by dragons as secondary characters, playful non-realistic staging, wonderful aesthetic work that mixes English and Chinese iconography, and an accent on adventure and comedy are the main ingredients of the short.
Staged in London in the late 1800s, in a house and on the street, in a submarine and a hot-air balloon, and in a forest in China, the film presents markedly different environments and sometimes playfully shows the construction process of the sets themselves. Text on the screen is used as part of the staging too, when Phileas interacts with the letters of the names of two of the artists who worked on the film, Anne-Lise Kubiak and Benoît de Geyer d’Orth (watch the sequence on 4.27-4.31).
Aesthetic work is impressive. Gunpowder uses a stylized 3D aesthetic for most of the short, but combines it with 2D elements. Also a 2D flat shaded aesthetic is employed for the travel sequences. Iconography offers a blend of elements from British and Chinese cultures, finding common ground in tea as a shared element of both cultures. Attention to color, lighting, framing, composition of elements, character and set designs is simply amazing. Combined with carefully crafted transitions to create ellipses make for a highly polished film. The 3D animation presented with a stop motion aesthetic is worth mentioning, too, and works well with the short.
Visual rhythm is high and handled through editing, camera moves (pans, tilts, dollies, cranes, etc.) and motion within the frame. A chase sequence is employed to raise tension, which is accompanied by an increase in visual rhythm. A lot of effort has been dedicated to transitions, which help smooth the numerous jumps in the narrative of the story. Ellipses abound.
What makes Gunpowder work so well? A fun and entertaining script situated outside of the contemporary, highly creative staging, abundant surprises, excellent aesthetic work, tight editing with polished directing and great use of elements from the adventure genre from Jules Verne’s stories.