Life. Death. Happiness. Retro video game graphics. If these are things you look for in a film, then today we’ve finally got the short you’ve been waiting for. James Molle’s 2019 Gobelins short Black Sheep Boy may sport an aesthetic akin to a 90’s Gameboy game, but its surprisingly philosophical narrative means it’s a piece with a much deeper emotional resonance than you might have initially expected.
“I’m not good at living my life”
Plot-wise, Black sheep Boy follows its young protagonist on a bizarre journey to find the mystical “Wise Lion”, in the hope of discovering how to be happy. After waking from an unsettling dream, he goes outside to get some fresh air and after admitting “I’m not good at living my life” to a smartly dressed cat, he is advised to seek guidance from the sage-like feline.
With echoes of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland coursing through its narrative veins, Black Sheep Boy is told in five chapters, as we witness the boy have a nightmare, leave home, arrive elsewhere and get lost, before finally finding his way to the Wise Lion and the end of his quest. Whether he gets the answers he was searching for largely depends on your interpretation of the ending, but he certainly gets an interesting story about a dead dog and boomerang.
Classic literary might feel like an apt comparison for the philosophical, spiritual journey at the core of Molle’s short, but visually the references feel much more contemporary. Dialogue-free, with all conversations taking place through a series of clicks, bleeps and squeaks, along with overlaid subtitles, it’s hard not to feel like you’re immersed in a surreal RPG. With this video game comparison in mind, although Black Sheep Boy is already a distinct and memorable experience, you are left wondering how it might have played as a more interactive piece – a philosophical adventure where you have to guide our young hero in his search for happiness – don’t forget to poke the giant Cyclocat in the eye!
Black Sheep Boy is the second short from the 2019 batch of GOBELINS films to feature on Short of the Week, after we featured Déjeuner sur l’herbe (Lunch on the grass) at the tail-end of last year. We’ve been featuring the films of Gobelins students on Short of the Week since 2009 (starting with the classic Oktapodi) and with details of the 2020 batch unveiled on Catsuka recently, we’re once again excited to see the work coming out of the prestigious school this year.