When you’re a teen, telling someone you fancy them is hard enough but if you’re not even sure they’re queer, it’s a whole other level of trepidation. Are they going to laugh, or out you to your friends, or tell your parents? And if so, will all these people disown you? It’s a risk that in those formative years can seem insurmountable. Matthieu Garcia Marin’s animated short, Dissonance, captures all the longing, anxiety and loneliness of fancying the pants off someone from inside the closet – in just 60 seconds.
While studying at French animation school L’école de la Poudrière this year, Matthieu was tasked to create a film around the theme “the imposter”. “When I heard the theme for the first time, I knew that I wanted to tell the story of someone pretending to be someone else because of social expectations,” Matthieu tells It’s Nice That. “It was my case when I was younger, as a gay guy who was struggling to come out.” Matthieu explains that the title for the film comes from the concept of dissonance in music, when two notes don’t resolve each other or are not meant to stay together. “I think this is what’s happening in my character’s head: he’s someone he’s not ready to be in the eyes of the others. There are two distinct parts of him that sound out of tune.”
After deciding on the story he wanted to tell and that he wanted to do it in just one minute, Matthieu began the tough job of building the animatic. There were so many scenes he wanted to feature that he had to make several versions, ultimately removing entire sections to make the whole thing work. “Making a one-minute animation is so frustrating but also really educative. You have to make choices to convey what you want to tell in the most efficient way,” says Matthieu. “When you have so little time to narrate something, every frame counts and finding the right pace in each shot was very important.”
Dissonance’s animation style was in part dictated by this short run time. “My goal was to find the most effective look to let the story flow as naturally as possible, hence the limited colour palette and the minimalist design,” says Matthieu. “Also I think those choices helped me give a more intimate, character-driven point of view, as we see immediately where the focus is.” Once Matthieu had animated a shot, he’d bounce back it back into editing to see whether it fitted the overall pace or needed a rethink. “It was a meticulous clockmaking work.”
The result is a powerful, emotionally charged and, ultimately, sad short. “I often think animation projects are seen as entertainment or non-serious compared to live action, even sometimes by people working in animation,” says Matthieu. “That’s a shame because it is a very powerful medium to express ideas that matter. What I want people to take away from Dissonance is that you might never truly know someone when expectations in a society are high and toxic. And that those expectations are often a cage which non-conforming people are trapped in, where something as harmless and beautiful as a crush can turn into damaging repressed feelings.”