The Albatross

"A struggling writer goes on a fishing trip."

Age: 9+

The Albatross is a short film about a struggling writer who has a confrontation with self-destruction. It was created by Australian artists Joel Best, Alex Jeremy and Alex Karonis in their final year of study at the University of Technology Sydney.

It’s a special short film in that it brings and actor to perform a role after being deceased. Not for just one character, but for two. The Albatross was inspired by the life of US actor, sailor and writer Sterling Hayden and uses audio from a previous film that features him. (The directors also cite Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s poem “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” as a source of inspiration.)

All films are based on or influenced by other films or works of art. Some make this explicit, such as Léo Verrier’s Dripped or Ben Craig’s Modern Times. A counted few borrow material from other films, repurposing it, and incorporating it seamlessly into their own bodies. Ben Brand’s Re-Entry does this with a space sequence. The Albatross borrows audio with phrases from Hayden from a documentary film about his life (called “Pharos of Chaos”) and builds a narrative around them. The likeness of the main characters are also based on Hayden himself, and so is the story, since the actor struggled with alcoholism. The directors even copied his gestures when working on the animation.

The production process is different from usual films, since audio was given priority and it drives the images, instead of the opposite.

Three characters, an internal conflict transposed into a supernatural character that generates an external conflict and a focus on alcoholism, addictions and overcoming self-destruction are the main elements of the short. The narrative is centered on character development through confrontation and gives a strong message of hope.

Staged in a house and in a boat in the ocean, good effort has been dedicated to building the vast environment and transmitting an impression of space. Great effort was also dedicated to creating the misty landscape and the simulation of the water surface and liquids. Aesthetic work is impressive, from composition, lighting to remarkable character designs. The aesthetic also plays an important role in conveying the main character’s deteriorating faculties.

Visual rhythm varies from average to high, in line with narrative rhythm. It’s handled through editing (cuts, fades, crossfades), camera moves (pans, tilts, dollies), visual effects (distortion effects), motion within the frame, etc. The boat’s rocking motion is skillfully emulated.

Camera shot sizes vary greatly. Extreme long shots are used to describe the extensive environment, medium shots and close-ups help transmit the expressions and conflict of the characters, as well as their actions. Close-ups are also used to show the emptying bottles and the filling up of glasses that help transmit Hayden’s alcoholism. A few two-shots are also present.

What makes The Albatross work so well? Creative script, non-realistic staging, supernatural elements, quality aesthetic work, plenty of surprises and a character who successfully confronts and overcomes his strong self-destructive internal conflicts, a subject that will appeal to a wide audience.


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