Blue Hands, an animated short by Diyala Muir, is an abstract exploration of the surreal experience of grief. Based on Diyala’s own experiences, it is intimate and hand-drawn, the process of a cathartic expelling of emotions and memories from Diyala’s past.
“The origin of the film comes from the darkest time in my life so far, after one of my closest friends passed away unexpectedly and then a few weeks later I broke up from my first real relationship,” Diyala says, opening up when asked about why she decided to produce Blue Hands. Having moved into a room in a family’s home that was an hour’s bus ride to her studio, she found herself “physically and emotionally isolated from everybody”. After seeing the ICA’s Stop Play Record programme was open to film pitches, she sent in her idea, won the institution’s funding and a year later Blue Hands was finished.
The short follows the main character, who remains unnamed, as she takes a bus. Slowly, the world around her becomes less grounded in reality, her emotional state becoming more fragile and heightened in response. “When she gets on the bus she enters a zone where time and space are transient and she is susceptible to her memories taking over,” Diyala explains. She experiences flashbacks, before eventually getting off the bus because she can no longer face her emotions.
Blue Hands, as a result, has a double meaning. “In a blunt and cruel way, it’s the description of her loved one’s hands – they were once alive and beating, now they are cold and blue,” Diyala explains. “But they also describe the main character’s psychological state. She is filled with inertia, haunted by her past and terrified of her future, so she is frozen in the present. Her hands (a representation for action, making, doing) are not hot-blooded, they are passive and idle.”
Stylistically, the film embodies this psychological state as well. It has a “psychotic, bitter tone through the design and style of the animation,” Diyala outlines. “Truthfully, I didn’t take very long at all working out the exact style for the film,” she explains of her intuitive style of working, “For me, process is the most important thing, the style and aesthetic comes together naturally through the story so I really don’t spend a lot of time thinking and planning, I just get to work.”
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