Short of the Week

Skhizein

A meteorite encounter causes a man to exist 91cm from himself in this beautifully haunting illustration of a self-destructive mind.

With Skhizein we have the triumphant return of Jérémy Clapin, featured before on SotW with his film Une Histoire Vertébrale. This time he arrives with many more plaudits to his name; Skhizein won the audience award at Annecy, the Kodak award at Cannes, and just recently took home “best short” at the Manhattan Short Film Festival: the first time an animation has taken that prize I believe.

Skhizein begins with a fairly odd premise to match its odd name. In an interview Clapin says the word derives from the Greek, meaning “to split” or “to cleave”—sharing that root with schizophrenia. Adhering to that concept, early on our main character comes face to face with a meteorite, the aftermath of which causes him to exist exactly 91cm from himself. In practice this means that when he sits down he looks as though he is floating in the air because his visual presence is 91 cm away from the chair itself. This is a cause of consternation for our hero, as one might expect, and the early part of the film relates our character’s attempts to cope.

Clapin has improved his technique from Une Histoire…, Skhizein is a huge leap forward for the French animator in regards to design, background detail and character movement. This is surely a large component of why the film has experienced such success. Similarities between the two films though exist. The two films share a limited color palette and a central concern: an examination of outsider figures, whose deformities—physical or skhizein_2mental—keep them from being in harmony with their environment or with others. However, Une Histoire… developed its joke in a relatively lighthearted, rom-com fashion, leading to a telegraphed happy ending that contributed to why I did not care for it very much. I expected similar of Skhizein, and was actually frustrated during the viewing process by little things I chocked up to sloppiness; examples of continuity errors where the character did not abide by the conceit of the film for example. However Clapin takes the film and its character in a direction far different than I expected, and really caused me to reevaluate my initial impressions afterward. Many of the things that bugged me I now believe to be intentionally woven in to foreshadow the climax. Strange though it may be, the film is aptly titled, both for its character and for its audience—as my expectation of the film and perception of its story while viewing, ended up being quite split from the emotionally resonant statement Clapin had in mind.

Many thanks go to Film in Focus and Kodak for bringing this to the web as part of the promotional buildup for the film 9 (featuring several other good films like Oktapodi). That’s why you”ll see Shane Acker at the start of the video introducing the film. I’ve had some difficulty with the Film in Focus video hosting while writing this review so I’ve included a link to a better quality Vimeo link as well. Perhaps click on the Film in Focus link to pad their web stats and then use Vimeo’s bandwidth?

~
Co-Founder of Short of the Week, Sondhi lives in Brooklyn working as a Curator for Vimeo. Follow his musings on online video, direct distribution and branded content: @jasondhi.
  • http://www.polymixmedia.com Andrew S Allen

    That’s my new favorite film!

  • Jason Sondhi

    Bold words. A lot of people agree with you though. I think there was a fair amount of surprise that its didn’t get nominated for Oscar this past year over some of the ones that did get in.

  • choco.loco

    i love it its so sad i hopethey do a part 2 :D

  • http://adesignmafia.com/?p=7952 Skhizein by Jérémy Clapin | A Design Mafia

    [...] article from Short of the Week–> Share and [...]

  • Dorothy

    I only just became aware of this ‘short’ via the ‘dogpile’ search engine,
    and viewed only the small portion of the film presented for free.

    I am the fifty eight year old sister of a 52 year old suffering from what has lately been diagnosed as schizo-affective disorder. He has been a ward of the state of Florida for roughly 30 years, and who disappeared from custody once again, just a day or two ago.

    I recoil from the terms used in describing this movie.
    “Self-destructive mind?” The mind does not decide to destroy itself, though the sufferer I mention contributes to it’s condition, by distrusting his medications. You might too, in the same situation.

    The little character in the film can “adapt” to his new condition because it is reasonably, (if not entirely, according to its critic) consistent.

    I have observed my brother from a fearful distance, with only the occasional visit or phone conversation over the years, because my mother felt it was her duty to “Protect” me and my own weaknesses from my brother’s situation.

    What I learned is that the schizoprhenic does not have the luxury of learning how to ‘adapt.’ His universe of delusions may feature recurring events or themes, but it is by no means sufficiently consistent to allow the
    luxury of “drawing up a template” as this little character has done, to try and scope out a survival strategy. There is no time allowed between any personal crisis and society’s less than benign reactions and correction strategies – many of which seem to have done more harm than good.

    Right now, one of the local ambulance-chasers residing in my home state of Maryland, is urging folks who have suffered Tardive diskinesia as a result of medication, to let his firm get busy and sue, on their behalf.
    When my brother’s meds resulted in this years ago, my mother calmly repeated
    the institutions assurances that this behavior is a “normal side effect” of that medication. She was a firm believer in “not rocking the boat.”

    At nearly ninety, she now slides into dementia. If I followed her philosophy, I would allow the state to yank her from her home and jam her into a state institution for the aged, as she doesn’t care to appoint anyone to handle her affairs.

    Meanwhile my brother is ‘out there,’ somewhere. Doubtless he will suffer another delusion as soon as his meds wear off, such as last time, when he mistook an elderly couple’s trailer for “Watson’s Garden Center” in Lutherville Maryland, where he has not been, for years. His antics are comical to the outsider, but never have a happy ending for him.

  • Bj Wilcoxson

    Gosh, I wish I spoke French!

  • Niche

    Unpredictable and unconventional.
    I loved it.

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  • Anonymous

    Video no longer exists, and seems to be gone from Vimeo altogether.

  • Anonymous

    Video no longer exists, and seems to be gone from Vimeo altogether.

  • http://www.andrewsallen.com Andrew S Allen

    Yes. Very sad. If you find it online anywhere, please let us know. Skhizein was our Best Short of 2009.

  • Joseph

    Nice find guys! This amazed me every time I saw it a few years ago. It’s absence from the Oscar selection says alot about the Academy. And what a beautiful score also. 

  • Joseph

    Nice find guys! This amazed me every time I saw it a few years ago. It’s absence from the Oscar selection says alot about the Academy. And what a beautiful score also. 

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    [...] is, to paraphrase Family Guy,  “daaamnnn France, you crazy.” Coming off a 2009 where Skhizein was our favorite film, and Logorama won the Oscar for best short animation, we sensed a trend and [...]

  • saeed

    that’s my favorite animation too,

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  • John