"A jazz pianist, his cat and the things that really matter."
Leitmotif is a short film about a pianist who wants to relive his youth and ends up realizing that the important things in life are in the present and closer than he thinks. The short was created by Jeanette Nørgaard, Marie Thorhauge, Marie Jørgensen and Mette Ilene Holmriis during their studies at Danish school The Animation Workshop.
Two main characters (on of them a cat), external conflicts, a focus on music, comedy and the friendship and interaction between a human and a cat are the key elements of the short.
Staged in an urban environment (exterior and interior), most of the action takes place inside a musician’s apartment. Musical instruments play an important role. There’s an emphasis placed on the use of objects and their importance. A photo, for example, serves as plot point and trigger for the pianist’s actions.
The short uses a highly styilized aesthetic, with special attention dedicated to lighting, color and character designs. Color is used to set mood, indicate time of day and highlight the characters separating them from the background. The way the artists have portrayed the animation and behavior of the cat is remarkable, a lof of effort has been clearly dedicated to studying cats, and one or more of the artists who made the short probably know them well. The expressiveness of the cat helps greatly in building conflict.
Visual rhythm varies throughout the short, increasing when the cat starts to be affected by the sound of the jazz instruments. It’s handled through editing (corssfades included), camera moves (pans, titls, zooms), motion within the frame and changes in lighting.
Framing employs full shots frequently to portray the pianist playing with his instrument together with the cat resting on top. Medium shots and close-ups are used to convey expressions as well as to highlight objects, link the pianist’s imagination to the silhouettes of his fellow musicians, capture the hands of the pianist playing the music and to link the visual rhythm of the short to the one of the music.
What makes Leitmotif work so well? Catchy jazz music, highly expressive characters, impressive work on the animation of the cat, abundant surprises and humor, and a message on giving affection the importance it deserves that will resonate with a wide audience.