Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

"It has the density of a well written poem whilst retaining that sense of space and whimsy."

"Time spent in a painting is very much like going there again on vacation," the artist John Burk once said. "When the painting is done, I have seen every detail and nuance so thoroughly that a glance at the completed work is sufficient for a short visit."

It's not unusual for people with forms of amnesia to use pictures as memory aides. Louis (voiced by André Wilms) has been a painter all his life but, alas, he is losing his ability at the same time as memory is being stripped away from him by advancing dementia. His wife Michelle (Dominique Reymond) cares for him day in and day out, mostly alone, and they're both finding it exhausting. But despite all that he's lost, a core of Louis remains - his artist's instincts, his intelligence, his humour and his love for her.

Bruno Collet's film is one of three stop motion animated shorts nominated for the Oscars this year. Though its puppets do most of the heavy lifting, it also blends in computer-generated animation techniques to explore Louis' changing perception, the contrast between the two emphasising the physicality of the former and, in turn, the physical burden of being a carer. Meanwhile, the paint that Louis sees bubbling up towards him seems like a layer of reality peeling away. Over the course of the film, Collet extends this metaphor to show us the disintegration of his ability to connect with the real world, the loss of memory gradually extending into a loss of immediate awareness.

Collet shows a rare understanding of the way that illnesses like this destroy part of a person rather than haphazardly crushing everything they are. Louis is presented throughout as a rational man trying to make sense of an increasingly irrational world. He approaches this in ways that are brave and creative and this helps us get to know him as a character so that the film is very much his story, not just another story about how such an illness affects those around the sufferer. Nevertheless, we see a good deal of Michelle's struggle too in a film that is impressively condensed, making efficient use of background dialogue. It has the density of a well written poem whilst retaining that sense of space and whimsy.

With a surprising store of warmth and joy hidden behind its tragic exterior, this is a beautiful little film which brings together impressive technical skill. insight and heart.

Reviewed on: 25 Jan 2020
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An ageing painter and his wife struggle increasingly to cope with his advancing dementia.

Director: Bruno Collet

Writer: Bruno Collet

Starring: Dominique Reymond, André Wilms

Year: 2019

Runtime: 12 minutes

Country: France


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