Héloïse Courtois, Victori Jalabert, Adèle Raigneau and Chloé Plat first met at university while studying at Ecole des Nouvelles Images in Avignon. The three French and Belgian animators (respectively) soon became friends, sharing a common interest in the graphic arts, and before they knew it, they were collaborating together on their final graduate film. Pulling together their common references, the four budding creatives came up with the masterful, Grand Bassin, a six-and-a-half minute short which seems far beyond the years of four university students.
While each frame could be an artful illustration in its own right, the animation possesses a molten fluidity, accurately representative of its subject, the swimming pool. “Some of the team members used to go to the pool and observe many fun and unique situations there,” Chloe, who now works as a CG graphic designer in Paris, tells It’s Nice That. “Very simply, this is how the idea was born.” The four animation directors found the place fascinating. Despite the near-nakedness of those around the pool, everyone goes about their own activities, enacting idiosyncratic rituals and politely sharing the space with one another.
Victori, who is currently working on a new short film in the South of France with Héloïse continues, “Most of the time you can relate to familiar scenarios. The two girlfriends who talk more than they swim and block the swimming line, the sportsman who splashes passed the other swimmers, thinking he’s at the Olympics.” And of course, that feeling we know all-too-well but wish we didn’t, the disgust at coming across a soggy, forlorn plaster floating away alone, long separated from whatever it was meant to be covering. Ew.
For the four animators however, the intrinsic interest in such swimming pool antics comes down to the heightened sense of character expressed amidst the tiled floor. “All these little situations are specific to this place, where the characters find themselves for a moment,” adds Héloïse. The unique atmosphere amplifies one’s quirks as sounds reverberate through the hollow space. Though it’s often cold, sanitised bordering on sterile, all in all, the swimming pool is a “special atmosphere”.
Compared with everyday life, the four animators came to see the swimming pool as its own small microcosm of goings on. In turn, they designed the characters that inhabit the wet space as a sort of tribe. They emphasised each character’s personality through their body shape, exaggerating movement through a bulky frame which cuts swiftly through water and feels statuesque out of it. Capturing the detailed minutiae of swimming pool goers, Héloïse, Victori, Adèle and Chloé create visual poetry from their everyday observations.
Finding a balance between a 2D and 3D aesthetic, the four animators worked hard to translate the initial 2D illustrations into 3D. “We wanted to create a hybrid rendering,” says Chloé on the established relationship between painterly textures and stark white space in the film. Through animation, the four recent graduates have birthed an original tone and style to tell this expressive story. Bringing characters to life through their skilled drawing techniques, the viewer becomes immersed in the chlorine scented pool, embracing the different bodily shapes around and their unique characterisations in turn.
About the Author
Jyni became a staff writer in March 2019 having previously joined the team as an editorial assistant in August 2018. She graduated from The Glasgow School of Art with a degree in Communication Design in 2017 and her previous roles include Glasgow Women’s Library designer in residence and The Glasgow School of Art’s Graduate Illustrator.