A ‘film without main characters’ that revolves around a series of seemingly unconnected events, Estonian animator Kaspar Jancis’ returns to the short film arena with Piano, his follow-up to the equally impressive, critically-acclaimed Villa Antropoff. A film that strikes an odd equilibrium between feeling chaotic and perfectly orchestrated, tragic and comedic, Jancis’ latest film once again shows why the filmmaker’s distinct storytelling approach is held in such high regard.
Opening with a scene of a woman rather seductively moving the titular piano, before introducing the rest of the film’s characters – an infatuated senior, an aspiring tightrope walker, a mocked Police commissioner and a trapped bee – though their individual struggles all collide in the short’s final scene, there’s a greater connection here – they are all striving to succeed in the face of adversity.
What to take away from these struggles isn’t abundantly clear at its conclusion. None of the Piano’s characters appear to succeed in what they set out to achieve, yet as the film ends, there’s a sense of shared contentment between them. Even though one of them is being stretchered away in an ambulance and one arrested, they share a smile together. Perhaps Jancis wanted us to realise its better to try and fail, than never try at all?
Kaspar has been active online recently, releasing his back-catalogue of shorts on his Vimeo account (see link below) over the last month or so. If Piano is your first exposure to the Estonian animator’s work (or Estonian animation in general) we heartily recommend visiting his previous shorts – I’d suggest starting with Villa Antropoff and working your way back through them in reverse chronological order (Krokodill, Maraton then Weitzenbergi tänav). There’s hasn’t been a great revolution in his aesthetic and storytelling approach over the years, but instead he’s honed the style and tone of his filmmaking with each film feeling more recognisable as a Kaspar Jancis film.