Created as a “Kinetic War Monument” to Canadian World War II hero Andrew Mynarski, Matthew Rankin’s 8-min short Mynarski Death Plummet is a psychedelic journey through the final moments of the courageous Pilot Officer as he attempts to rescue a fellow serviceman from the flame-engulfed tail of their KB726 bomber.
Blending wartime aviation melodrama with classical and avant-garde animation techniques, Rankin’s powerful film takes this now legendary story of bravery and serves it up to a brand new audience with some truly inventive and immersive craft
Growing-up in Winnipeg, Mynarski’s birthplace, the filmmaker admits that tales of this war hero and his final gesture of self sacrifice had seeped into his brain.
“I remember reading somewhere that the French villagers who witnessed Mynarski’s incandescent fall to the earth had mistaken him for a bomb and evacuated the town”, says Rankin. “Though it could be I imagined that. But either way, this idea of a man being mistaken for a bomb really stuck with me, made me feel sad”.
“Some of my best friends are computers, but I try to keep my film work separate from them”
With his story in place, experiments in abstract, emulsion-based animation helped Rankin decide on the distinct aesthetic his avant-garde war epic should adopt, something the director obviously put a lot of thought into:
“The film starts out using the visual syntax of ancient government propaganda and steadily transforms and intensifies into radical abstraction”, says Rankin. “The cinematic experience I love most is one that is immense, grandiose and overwhelming. I also wanted to make images that were defiantly analogue and hand-made. Some of my best friends are computers, but I try to keep my film work separate from them”.
“The images were filmed in studio on 35mm ORWO black & white. To create the visual effects, I spent many months hunched over a light table in my apartment, directly manipulating the film by hand, frame by frame. I scratched it, boiled it, defaced it with Letraset, painted it with coloured inks and zealously splattered it with javex”.
Experimental film is something we often discuss here at Short of the Week. It’s something we’d love to feature more of, but often struggle to find the right balance between meeting our “narrative-first” curatorial brief and showcasing this boundary-pushing filmmaking. Rankin’s film feels like the perfect example of a short that ticks both boxes, brimming with undeniably innovative craft and an emotive, immersive storytelling, Mynarski Death Plummet is a work that can be appreciated at many levels.
Currently in the process of completing new animated film The Tesla World Light (about the titular Serbian inventor Nikola Tesla), at the National Film Board of Canada, this winter Rankin will embark on a feature-length project he describes as a “historical melodrama about a foot-worshipping Canadian politician” called The 20th Century. Hopefully, Matthew will return to Short of the week sometime in the near future and tell us more about these projects.