What would you do if you held a world’s fate in your hands? This is the question explored in Alex Glawion’s distinct animated short The Risk Not Taken. Blending a detailed and intricate aesthetic style with a challenging and thought-provoking plot, Glawion’s film may not be for those seeking out a straight A to B storyline in their shorts, but those hungry for more narrative complexity will find this a hugely rewarding watch.
Created over a 4-month period, as his graduation film for the Freie Hochschule für Grafikdesign und Bildende Kunst school in Freiburg, Germany, Glawion’s film is a story of power, fate and consequence. Introducing us to its protagonist through a close-up of its alien hero sleeping, we’re soon taken on a journey around an unstable world, as this creature is granted visions of what may happen if it chose to alter future events. Opening with its main character in the state of sleep, as a viewer we’re inclined to instantly question whether we are watching actual events of this being in his land, or is this just a dream or a vision? In all honesty, I’m not sure it matters. The Risk Not Taken has no real beginning or end, its narrative feels cyclical and although the world and creature is not of our planet, the scenarios and decisions of the story are what the director is encouraging us to relate to and interpret.
Citing a range of influences for his short, from Nietzsche to Jeremy Clapin, director Glawion admits that the narrative for The Risk Not Taken didn’t come to him easily. Declaring experimentation as the key ingredient to his inspiration, his exploratory approach shines through in his unusual narrative and aesthetic. With animation design as intricate and complex as his narrative, it would be shame to talk about Glawion’s short without examining his visuals further. In making a world and a character that feels both foreign and familiar to its audience, the filmmaker has achieved something rather special with his style and it was no mistake, as he explains in his press release:
“The Risk Not Taken takes place in an abstract and artistic world that reduces included elements to their bare essence. Especially important for me were the generative and fractal landscape-styles, that emerged from the desire to create detail generatively, as well as express this detail in its form rather than its texture or structure. These types of landscape will seem strange and rather novel when examined in detail, but more familiar in their broader, coarser form. This idea was also applied to the characters, who seem manlike at first glance, but show extreme differences when enlarged.”
Identifying the underlying message in his film as the importance of remembering what really counts in life and to ponder the consequences of risks and decisions, Glawion’s film may leave many of its viewers with more questions than answers. The Risk Not Taken isn’t here to provide solutions to the dilemmas it’s concerned with and it doesn’t have the answers to the grand questions it asks – instead it is a film that asks us to reflect on the choices we make in life and think about the journey we took to come to those decisions.