Laugh and wince in equal measure with Hors Piste, an animated short starring a pair of useless mountain rescuers
Made by four graduate friends at the École des Nouvelles Images, the hilarious short was inspired by the greats of 20th-century silent cinema.
- 15 January 2020
- Ruby Boddington
- Reading Time
- 3 minutes
Imagine injuring yourself halfway up a mountain while out skiing. The last thing you’d want is a couple of useless buffoons named Parmesan and Salami, who manage to destroy their helicopter and then proceed to use you as a bridge, sledge and battering ram to make their own way back down the mountain during a blizzard. Well, this is the fate of some poor nameless soul in the hilarious, wince-inducing animated short, Hors Piste from Leo Brunel, Loris Cavalier, Camille Jalabert and Oscar Malet.
An impressive film, which wouldn’t look odd during the trailers ahead of Pixar’s next film, Hors Piste is the graduation film of the quartet, who met at École des Nouvelles Images in Avignon, where they have been studying for five years. “The four of us are friends and it seemed obvious to work together!” says Oscar.
It was towards the end of their fourth year that the group began thinking about the piece. “In the beginning, we all wanted to make a comedy,” Loris explains. “Oscar and Leo’s parents are used to the mountain environment and we thought that it would be funny to play with the danger of high peaks. We added two dumb guys to increase the climate of danger. At this point, it was missing something, so after some brainstorming we ended up with the wounded guy.” The addition of this character really makes the film, providing a contrast to the stupidity of the rescuers and in turn heightening their comedic value.
The storyline itself then took a huge amount of work. “We drew like two hundred gags onto Post-its and tried to fit them into the film,” Camille explains. “We mostly built the story with drawings instead of writing a detailed script, because this kind of comedy is mostly visual.” What results is a simple but perfectly timed series of disasters, which snowball over the short film’s six-minute duration. It’s a style of comedy that makes perfect sense when Camille adds that the group was heavily inspired by slapstick stars from the 1950s, like Charlie Chaplin and Laurel and Hardy, combined with references from the 80s like MacGyver.
While the story was decided as a group, once it was set, they split up their roles in order to actually bring the short to life. Oscar, Camille and Leo did the animation, while Loris took on the special effects. In terms of Hors Pistes’ style, they decided on a realistic rendering with cartoony shapes and animations from the beginning. “We kept that in mind during the production and worked hard to achieve a balance between those two styles, which might seem to not match at first. We felt that this combination would enhance the comedic effect of our gags,” Oscar says.
A major part of the film is its lack of dialogue. “In our school, having no dialogue is one of the basic rules for every short film,” Leo explains. “So, we studied the classic silent movies from the beginning of the 20th century, specifically Chaplin and [Buster] Keaton. They used strong body language to provoke laughter from their audience, which inspired us a lot. After that, we came up with a lot of gags, which allowed us to select the ones that fit best into our story.” The film is soundtracked with original music by Nicolas Peiron, which sets the tone throughout: it’s silly, cringeworthy and downright hilarious.
About the Author
Ruby joined the It’s Nice That team as an editorial assistant in September 2017 after graduating from the Graphic Communication Design course at Central Saint Martins. In April 2018, she became a staff writer and in August 2019, she was made associate editor. Get in contact with Ruby about ideas you may have for long-form stories on the site.