A Love Story: the Bafta-winning short that follows the heartbreaking journey of two animated yarn puppets
Directed and animated by Anushka Kishani Naanayakkara, A Love Story follows the story of two woollen characters as they navigate through happiness, love, loss and “emotional ache”.
- 3 March 2020
- Ayla Angelos
- Reading Time
- 4 minutes
It’s the day of your graduation show and the project you’ve been slaving over for god knows how long is about to be shown to world (or more realistically other students, friends, family and prospective employers from the area). It’s an exhilarating time and one that comes riddled with enough anxiety without your laptop being stolen.
That was unfortunately the case for Anushka Kishani Naanayakkara, an animator and director whose laptop was taken during her graduation show at Camberwell University of the Arts, London. She was also, surprisingly, studying graphic design at the time, yet a workshop and encouragement from her peers led her to pursue the medium of animation. As for the loss of her grad project, this took her nearly two years to remake – “but I’m so happy I did it,” she tells It’s Nice That, as she explains how the film got her into film school and resultantly gave her the opportunity to make some useful connections and, most importantly, taught her how to direct.
While studying at the prestigious National Film and TV School (NFTS), that’s where Anushka had met writer Elena Ruscombe-King, her soon-to-be companion and script writer for her upcoming Bafta-winning graduation film, A Love Story. Once they had decided to work together, they were initially asked to pitch three ideas, and knew that they could “make whatever [they] wanted,” says Elena. “If anything that was worse because we had no brief, so it took us a while to settle on the story and the medium.” Landing on a personal experience of Anushka’s, the finalised result is a marvellous animated short that sees a pair of woollen puppets work their way through moments of happiness, love and loss. “It was an idea that seemed the most clear at the time and we could all relate to it,” explains Anushka on the reasoning behind the concept. Although ambiguous as to what this personal story might be, there are certain markers throughout that propel the story in the direction of one that’s filled with “emotional ache”.
GalleryAnushka Kishani Naaanayakkara: A Love Story
As the director and lead animator, Anushka worked alongside Elena to devise the script, plus various other team members including producer Khaled Gad and animator Ivan Carrion Soria to assist with the production. “It was great working together as we are very different in our approach to animating,” says Anushka. “Ivan is very structured and understands movement and space, whereas I’m more about figuring out the action as I animate.” This meant that the shots were split between them in a cohesive process, enabling them to work separately and unify their work upon completion. It took a good few weeks of solo animating for Anushka: “so it was refreshing and motivating to have an animator with you, so you can both discuss the shots and figure out how to animate it using the multiplane set up.”
As for the aesthetic, the colour palette is of utmost importance. The narrative begins in a soft and calm environment, before the protagonist is interrupted from its daily forage by a colourful newcomer. Their connection is made through the transmission of coloured wool, and soon enough they become happily entangled. This fibrous land evolves vividly, before a moment of grief prevails as the protagonist’s supposed lover turns black. One can only assume that this is an uncontrollable illness taking over with unstoppable force, as it eventually leads to the sad disruption and disconnection of the couple. Then, you see the protagonist alone munching on some threads as it’s greeted by another character – but its heartache continues to take over and blocks any further connections to be made.
Despite there being no clear context, it’s most certainly a story that many of its viewers can relate to – it’s a journey of love and loss aroused by its turbulent and colourful surroundings. “The colour palette followed the emotional ache of the story,” says Anushka. The idea to incorporate wool as the sole material was also introduced intuitively, after the team had decided to embark on a surrealist 3D land. Elena adds: “After a lot of experimentation and research, we landed on wool, then we went all-in trying to think of all the different ways you could tell a story through threads – we even made a glossary with every colour and what we thought it meant. It was a very lateral approach to film-making that brought all the departments together early on.”
A complex world to say the least, A Love Story is completely open to interpretation. But one thing’s for sure – it’s a valuable and emotional reminder of the precious moments we have with our loved ones.