The art of animation, with its infinite possibilities of visual expression, has become a go-to medium for exploring difficult subjects. An example of this approach is Ooze, a newly released short which narrates the loneliness the director felt while working as an elevator boy at a nightclub in Hamburg. Kilian Vilim, Ooze’s director explains how his previous job led to “a mental breakdown where I knew I had to make some changes,” the animator tells It’s Nice That. “I decided to follow my inner wish to study animation and use the storyline of the elevator boy to draw a line between myself and the past.”
The essence of Ooze is loneliness. The stark black and white animation accentuates ideas of solitude through the isolating walls of the lift, depicting what it is like “to be alone with your own demons.” Back when Kilian was working as an elevator boy he “felt caged and separated from the real world. Especially when there are no passengers and you have a lot of time to think about everything.” In Ooze, the undulating lift movement is visually enhanced by the simple use of negative space. For instance, the descending white line cutting through a pitch black background denotes the cracks of light given off by a moving lift. Kilian adds, “like the elevator itself, you think about your ups and downs in life” while being on the elevator all day. “I ended up thinking about very heavy topics that put me in a very dark mood.”
In a role that is so physically close to other people, the protagonist is conversely emotionally distant from the other counterparts, unacknowledged and unrecognised. To the other passengers, the elevator boy is seen as just another “part of the machine” and these bizarre, psychological differences are explored throughout the film. The surreal scenes that flicker between black and white inversions create an atmosphere of psychological instability. The monotony of the lift that ascends and descends continuously is cleverly captured through the sleek movement and swift lines that are reminiscent of the elevator’s doors opening and closing.
The atmosphere of Ooze’s is dark, and while it was the animator’s intention to “unsettle the spectators”, he fundamentally sees the film as a “story of liberation.” Even though the character seemingly commits suicide at the end, Kilian explains how “for me, it is actually not suicide. It is more that he is killing his career as an elevator boy” and re-affirming his autonomy to pursue a creative career. The hard-hitting storyline is enforced by the harsh contrast between the black and white visual style. In the beginning, Kilian incorporated shades of grey within the animation, but on his mentor’s advice, he decided to “reduce everything” and make the expression as simple as possible. The director asserts how “black was the right tone for the protagonist’s mood to be readable.” Although illustrating the shadows and backgrounds became a challenge with the two-tone colour palette, it presented an exciting challenge for the animator who creates a sense of depth through simple flecks of texture throughout the film.
Essentially, Ooze seems visually simple on first glance, but with the film’s emotionally intelligent tone; the black and white inversions actually enhance the fluidity of the narrative, aptly conveying this sensitive story of self-discovery.
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