Jul 5, 2019
The world of experimental shorts is generally left unexplored by a large part of the community. And even among the few looking for obscure content, a great many of these shorts will remain "heard of" but ultimately untouched, with only a few notable exceptions. This may be because word of mouth and exploring for yourself are really the only ways to find some of the gems hidden in the rubble, or because people aren't all that interested in these experimental but oftentimes meaningless works to begin with.
Calm is no different, offering only an ambiguous two-act daydream rather than a fleshed-out narrative and a faceless, nameless
girl as the main character. There is no dialogue nor character development to speak of, and thematically it is a barren wasteland. So what does it do different than other shorts and why is it worth watching? The answer lies in the title.
One of Calm's greatest strengths is that it is stripped of all pretense: it aims to do nothing but offer a calm atmosphere with a tinge of eeriness, and it does so for all of its seven minute runtime. From the very beginning, the constant light flickering of the images and the yellowing of the screen evoke a sense of nostalgia as the viewer is transported into the girl's daydreams.
In the following few minutes, sequences of evolution, the girl turning into a bird creature and flying through the skies, turning into a dolphin and swimming across the ocean, traversing planes of chizzled lines in the short's usual handpainterly smudgy style of animation—generally strange but mesmerizing images create an atmosphere of calm. Meanwhile, the minimalist soundtrack consisting of mainly guitars and a synthesizer put one into a state of trance.
But as the day draws to a close, the tone shifts. The sequences of evolution turn into sequences of decay. The once bright colors make way for an overpowering red, as a heavy piano and strange beeping sounds suppress the former minimalist song. Where there once was fantasy there now is an estranging feeling of loneliness. The girl begins to fly once again, but this time over a dark and empty city. The strange noises become ever stronger, creating a growing sense of unease, as finally the sun goes down and the dream fades.
In just under seven minutes, Calm manages to evoke a number of feelings effectively and concisely. It does just what it set out to do and doesn't overstay its welcome. It doesn't accomplish any great feat and is far from life-changing, but it is beautiful in its own kind of way. To those of you who are lovers of the experimental and don't mind something being insubstantial so long as it is poignant and unique, I wholeheartedly recommend this short. Those of you who prefer sticking to more conventional works with some sort of takeaway probably won't like this one as much, but feel free to watch it if you will. It's only seven minutes anyway.
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