When we are young, there is a question that bothers the majority of us: What is my purpose in life? There is a grand notion that we’ve all been put on this Earth to serve some greater good, to find our natural calling and it makes perfect sense that a group of soon-to-be graduated students would make a film centred around these ideas. Concrete, a Lucerne School of Art and Design production, employs a stunning blend of 3D & 2D animation to transports its viewers to a world of brutalist architecture, where its probing protagonist embarks on a journey of self-discovery.
A year before graduating from the Swiss school, co-director Aira Joana admits that the film’s creators were going through some “soul searching in our lives” and wanted to use this experience to inspire their final film by exploring this idea of “finding our place in the world”. Aiming to create a detached, “out of place feeling”, the directors soon found themselves picturing what they describe as an “aimless drifter in a vast swamp, where the only other trace of life is depicted by wild flora and a mural fox”. And so the narrative for Concrete was born.
Though the team of four admit they were still trying to find their own filmmaking voices when they made their short, we feel they did a stellar job of taking some recognisable, universal themes and portraying them in a fresh and inventive fashion, all within a distinct universe. Narratively, Concrete leans towards more abstract storytelling, the takeaway from this tale of a traveller lost in an alien land open to interpretation.
While the message here is ambiguous, there’s one thing we should all be able to agree on…the craft is the real standout element in Concrete. I don’t make that statement to detract from the storytelling, but in balance, it’s hard to argue that the aesthetic does feel as if it’s doing a lot of the heavy lifting when it comes to holding audience attention. There’s intrigue around the storyline sure, but you can really lose yourself within the striking visual universe the team have created on screen.
Admitting they were looking to create a 3D animation style very different from “what we were used to from Pixar and Disney”, Concrete’s creators have produced a film that should stand out in the world of independent filmmaking, but also catch the eye of studios looking to employ talented young artists. Now working on a selection of new projects, although we might not see the quartet of Pirmin Bieri, Aira Joana, Nicolas Roth and Luca Struchen all working together again, the various members of the team are already collaborating on new projects.