Recent S/W picks have done a great job in showcasing the limitless possibilities of animation. Renee Zhan’s O Black Hole! took us on a trippy existential journey through time and space after a woman turns into a black hole, while Barbara Rupik’s Duszyczka allowed us to follow a soul as it travels a post-mortem world. Today’s pick, Farce by Robin Jensen, is a lot more grounded than both those aforementioned shorts, but once again feels like a story that could’ve have only been brought to life through the magic of animation.
The story of a simple Sami reindeer herder who finds himself embroiled in a world of excess, greed and murder, Farce begins as quite a sweet tale, before heading down a path of debauchery that includes frenzied meat-coated orgies and dismembered members. “I wanted to create a dark and filthy film that portrays poverty and prosperity in a grotesque but entertaining way”, Jensen reveals in this director’s statement. Adding that he wanted his film to be “a kick in the gut against the rich and wealthy who get away with almost anything”, that message screams strong throughout his bold and uncompromising film.
With the filmmaker admitting that he believes the short film format to be the perfect foil for tackling social injustices, describing the limited run-time as leaving “little room for complicated explanations and long lines”, Farce certainly lands in an impact in its brief 11-minute duration. Describing that impact as “a quick slap in the face”, Jensen hopes his unforgettable film will prove to be “a surprising wake-up call that can change our perspective and perhaps make us see our values in a different light”.
With such a bold premise at its core, Jensen had to pick a strong aesthetic to compliment his narrative and the combination of cut-out animation and paint-on-glass really packs a punch. Much like the story, the style begins innocently enough as we witness a sweet exchange between the reindeer herder and his next door neighbour. As he turns to one of his flock, lovingly putting his hand on the side of its face, he pulls a knife from his waistband and slits its throat – the blood that sprays the screen transforming into fleshy, pulsating text that spells out the short’s title.
This brief moment is an indicator of what’s to come, as the real visual masterstroke in Farce is the inclusion of pixelation animation to amplify the disturbing moments in the film. It starts at the meat-grinder, as we see realistic looking meat minced to a pulp, but it’s the feast scene where Jensen steps things up another level. As mountains of that authentic looking flesh is served to the cut-out dinners and they begin shovelling it into their drooling orifices, the director cuts in shots of real hands scooping piles of the meat-mush towards the camera. Following this up with shots of actual mouths binging on the bloody mess and the effect is quite unsettling (lets not even get started on that severed penis scene!). Though it’s a standout visual element in the short, you can also see the reason behind its inclusion, as it injects a sense of reality into proceedings, making audiences consider the very real message Jensen is looking to portray in his film.
Screened at Annecy and Fantastic Fest, Farce was nominated for the Short Film Grand Jury Prize at Sundance 2020 and won the Animated Encounters Grand Prix award at Encounters 2021. With a back catalogue of titles dating back to 2002, Jensen is obviously a filmmaker well-versed in creating short films and although we’re unsure what the filmmaker has planned next, Farce certainly has us hungry for more of his work.