"In a village lost in the Nordic islands, a little girl is waiting for her father, gone fishing at sea."

Maija is a short film created by six artists at French school ENSI about the playful life of a little girl who waits for her fisherman father to return. The short was produced as a graduation project at the Avignon-based school.

Narrated from the POV of the little girl, the film is staged in a house next to the sea and on the sea itself. It features four main characters, a conflict with the environment as well as an external conflict, an accent on the use of an object (the toy ship) and a fantasy theme.

The film offers a portrait of the life of a little girl who inhabits a house next to the sea, and a father-daughter relationship. It makes frequent use of re-framing, offscreen space and the environment for expressive purposes, such as transmitting mood, as well as introducing and raising conflict.

Aesthetic work is outstanding: framing (frequent re-framing), colors, materials, lighting and composition of elements are a pleasure to watch. The stylized aesthetic employs 2D and 3D animation. The change from 3D to 2D is used to signal the transition to a dream sequence, raising the level of subjectivity in narration and introducing fantasy elements. An iconography with Scandinavian elements is employed (Drakkar, Viking shield, etc.).

The amount of work dedicated to environment and character design is worth noting. The expressiveness of the little girl character plays a key role in transmitting emotions to the audience and making the film work.

Cameras are mostly static. Maija provides an interesting case of fast visual rhythm implemented through editing and motion within the frame. The film makes abundant use of offscreen space and elements that enter and leave the frame, helping create surprise and an impression of randomness, a filmmaking style that sometimes resembles the documentary. Close-ups and medium shots abound to capture the expressions of Maija. Changing camera height (lower than usual) and angles help transmit the POV of the girl. Long shots and extreme long shots are used to portray the sea and landscapes.

What makes Maija work so well? The expressiveness of the little girl character, a script based on playfulness and affection, impressive aesthetic work, strong conflict and elements of surprise and fantasy that hook the viewer.


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