Fish Boy lives in darkness, his guilt about the past slowly consuming him.
A selection of Short of the Week, the web’s leading curators of quality short films.
Directed by Anita Bruvere
“As a man with a fish head battles his inner demons, he’s forced to make a decision when his struggles start affecting the person closest to him. In Anita Bruvere’s impressive stop-motion short Fishboy, the director explores the theme of guilt and its repercussions by combining hand-crafted puppets and paint on glass animation to make this surreal narrative feel emotionally palpable and intensely compelling.
Bruvere shared with us that “the idea was born from the image of a man with a fish head instead of a human head”. From that starting point, with screenwriter Bethe Townsend, they started thinking about what life would be like for this character and built their narrative around that premise. Explaining that the film is essentially “a couple having a conversation about their relationship, but shown in a metaphorical way”, the director adds that she “wanted to explore the themes of loss and guilt and how those feelings can affect people around the person experiencing those feelings”. In the conversations between the on-screen couple, guilt almost becomes a character with a physical presence, as Bruvere effectively makes the audience “visualise what the couple feels”.
While the narrative is quite specific, the metaphor allows everyone to experience the film in their own way and potentially relate to some of its aspects differently. As Bruvere explains: “I’m interested in connecting the personal to the universal and in telling stories that use unconventional narratives to create a strong sensation or feeling for the viewer”. Ultimately, Fishboy is a universal enough story that the majority of viewers should find it emotionally engaging. However, by approaching and developing the story from the partner’s perspective as well it subverts expectations, becoming less conventional and more powerful, especially with that ending.
With such an ambitious screenplay, an equally impressive level of craft was needed to bring the filmmakers’ vision to the screen. Thankfully, Bruvere, an experienced stop-motion animator, does not disappoint and her textured approach is an essential component in the success of the short. Using both the puppet stop motion and the paint on glass techniques gives a visual depth to this metaphoric tale and enhances its emotional depth. With the paint on glass scenes capturing the memories in two dimensions, the present is represented in a more palpable way with the puppets. Bruvere confesses that representing the sea was challenging, as it illustrates much more than a simple body of water, describing it as “comforting and suffocating at the same time”. The result is nothing short of breathtaking, her depiction serves the story on the deepest level by being more effective and visceral than any spoken or unspoken dialogue between the characters.
Fishboy had a successful festival run during the 2018/2019 season and Bruvere has gone on to direct another animated short film Home, which premiered at Annecy in 2020 and will hopefully have its online debut soon. Bruvere also works as a modelmaker and animator for films, ads and TV, with credits including previous S/W pick Frank’s Joke (also produced by Shereen Ali) and Edgar Wright’s debut documentary The Sparks Brothers.” – S/W Curator Céline Roustan
Bertrand Rocourt – Cinematographer
Alice La Trobe – Production Designer
Tine Lykke Jensen – Editor
Seymour Milton – Composer
Breen Turner – Sound Designer
Laura Jane Dart – Colourist
Amy Gibson – Compositor
Hugh Skinner – Fish Boy
Emily Taaffe – Laura
Reproduced on this channel with the permission of the filmmakers.