The Romance of the Skeleton is a two-and-a-half minute, weird and wonderful animation depicting “the lows and lower lows of love in the afterlife.” Equal parts funny and touching, the short is the result of a collaboration between Brazil-born Vitoria Bastos and Adele Davies from Devon (a small town famous for its carpets to be specific). Although from very different backgrounds, the pair bonded over alien abductions, UFOs and a shared interest in weird, sexual and deliberately ugly work – interests which are clearly reflected in the project. Having barely spoken while studying the same course (Graphic Communication Design at Central Saint Martins), the collaboration came about as a way to get out their frustrations with the “final year grind and the inclination towards polished and commercial work.”
The piece was inspired by its own soundtrack, a Brazilian folk song that Vitoria’s Grandfather used to sing to her when she was young. The lyrics of the song tell the story almost exactly as you see it in the animation but with their own obscene interpretation. Despite the song being in Portuguese, the duo opted to omit any English subtitles. Relying instead of their story-telling abilities to convey the lyrics of the romantic yet tragic melody.
Vitoria and Adele chose to work with paper puppets, because of its “organic, tactile and higgledy-piggledy aesthetic.” Coupled with the use of stop-motion, this enabled them to “incorporate printmaking, collage, painting and our styles of drawing” adding that “the medium’s out of date methods suited the out of date song.” Both the characters and setting are a result of their idiosyncratic process which saw them working from each other’s drawings until the outcomes were no longer either of their styles and yet a fusion of both. This specific choice of medium adds a certain naivety to the piece, an addition which makes the use of obscenities all the more funny and surprising.
The use of humour is definitely the real draw of the piece and what initially captured our attention. However, the pair claim that this arose incredibly naturally due to their shared agreement on how illustration should work. “Neither of us are able to take ourselves seriously. We’re surprised the animation even got this far. We were just trying to make each other laugh and distress our tutors.”
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