When Liang-Hsin Huang was choosing which career to pursue, she wanted to find something which would allow her to paint, tell a story, and create basically anything she wanted from her mind’s eye, all at the same time. A self-described nerd, as a child, the Taiwanese creative indulged in films and stories, spending much of her time drawing. Eventually, she stepped into a world which would allow her to fulfil all her creative intentions; animation.
Specialising in hand drawn and 2D animation, the filmmaker graduated from the Royal College of Art just last year. First interested in the course for its experimental approach, Liang-Hsin came to love the style of animation birthed in the UK, revelling in “the vibe” and atmosphere which nourished her own practice. There, she created her graduate film when the silence comes, a beautiful three-and-a-half-minute short, poetically told through black and white vignettes.
“I would say that I’m more interested in the depiction of space rather than figures,” she tells It’s Nice That of her signature style. when the silence comes is notable for its evocative stillness, its pacing is subdued and introspective, a reflection of Liang’s-Hsin’s unique way of storytelling. In her thoughtful practice, she is more concerned with the feeling of the animation rather than the movement or the narrative. “I want my films to be poetry but not novels,” she goes on to say.
Utilising every bit of space in the frame, Liang-Hsin takes advantage of the whole shot to tell a story. Not focusing on any single character, it is the relationship between her characters and the space which forms the crux of the narrative. Similarly, she chooses not to give her characters faces so as not to distract the viewer from the overall mise en scene. “I want people to focus more on the vibes so it becomes personal and mysterious,” adds the animator. “When the character becomes neutral, people can put themselves into any characters in the films.”
When it comes to textures, Liang-Hsin is sure to highlight the hand drawn qualities of the drawings. Stimulating a warmth and softness through the pencil and paint, the marks aptly illustrate the tone of the short. The tone is one of sadness, originating from the time Liang-Hsin’s grandmother died. She tells us, “When I was in the room at the hospital where my grandma passed, a strong sorrow came to me and I felt the room suddenly turn silent and I couldn’t even say a word.” She realised that when a relationship changes – in this instance, through death – in turn, the atmosphere also changes.
This was the crux behind the film, filling the short with personal memories that stirred up similar feelings. Brimming with ambiguity, when the silence comes is a film about the silent tensions in a relationship. The relationship between the two characters is purposely unclear, their feelings gently arise from small movements and gestures that Lean-Hsin carefully hints to. It’s a technique partly informed by the animator’s love of poetry. “I always choose a poem to represent a film,” she finally goes on to say. “It helps me to link all the scenes together and sometimes, when I have a lack of ideas, the poem always helps.”
In this case, it was Wislawa Szymborska’s Elegaic Calculation that helped Liang-Hsin flow from one scene to the next, revealing the lines which meant the most to her: “See you soon / See you tomorrow / See you next time / They don't want / (if they don't want) to say that anymore / They are given themselves up to endless / (if not otherwise) silence / They're only concerned with that / (if only that) / which their absence demands."
Liang-Hsin Huang: when the silence comes