Swiss animator and director Rafael Stolz (“Le Salsifis du Bengale”) debuted with his new short film “Miracasas” in Annecy, where he competed with 37 other short animated films as part of the official selection.
Stolz uses a smooth and impressionistic style of animation to tell the story of Ernesto, an almost dead soldier transported to his final destination deep in the Brazilian jungle, where villagers hope his death will bring new life. The film is a French and Swiss co-production between Nadasy Film, a well-known Swiss animation studio, Komadoli Studio and the Swiss public television RTS Radio Télévision Suisse.
Demonstrating a gift for collaboration (her short “Le Salsifis du Bengale” is an adaptation of a poem by Robert Desno), Stolz interprets and transforms the story of Augusto Zanovelo with his unique style, broad strokes, clever humor and a penchant for classical animation. In a story that challenges the foundations of religion and looks down on the question of mortality, Stoltz’s work is both a romantic postponement and an insight into the light.
Diversity talked to Stoltz before the film’s debut in Annecy.
What is the inspiration for the story of Miracasas?
The story was already well advanced by Augusto Zanovelo when I started working on it, and then it was transformed with the advancement of animation. The film is about rebirth, and spirituality is something that has always accompanied me, but which has become more present for me in recent years while doing Mirakazi.
The film was somewhat therapeutic because it talks about trans-generations. Stories about ghosts, wandering spirits, souls in pain, which for me could be a reflection of stories that do not belong to us, but which accompany us, acquire a new meaning. This has always been a question for me, and the idea of offering a vision of what could be the last time for the afterlife, for liberation, seemed interesting to me.
At Miracasas, I’m taking you to South America, to Brazil. Obviously, I have this taste for travel, for the presentation of universes, landscapes, cultures, which fascinates me. “Le Salsifis du Bengale” was a critique of tyranny, and “Miracasas” was a critique of certain religious aspects, of certain social functions that lead to unnecessary deaths, while offering a vision of what could be the way to the afterlife.
Miracasas boasts bright and imaginative animation. Can you describe the method of animation and how you came up with this style?
For the method, I made the whole decor on lines of paper and then made the color decor on Photoshop. The cartoon poses are made partly on paper and then redrawn on TVpaint. The whole animation was made in TVpaint, software that allows 2D rendering. Everything is drawn. The color of the animation is also made on TVpaint, in several coats of paint. Composing then allowed us to add paper textures that rotate on the animation and on the landscape, which allows us to have a sense of “grain paper”, which was very important to me.
The graphic universe of “Miracasas” was developed over five months, but it is the result of a visual progression dating back to my first years of study at the Emile Cohl School, through the Gobelins School. There’s a whole lot of work on cartoon characters that comes from my last 10 years of research. When it comes to shapes, I like to find signs that match each other graphically and that function as a “rural” object. The aesthetics of the film are close to my former film, Le Salsifis du Bengale. There we find the free, vibrant and very detailed line we had in this first film. But in Miracasas, I took the work of color very far. I make wide-format oil paintings in parallel with my work as a director and this helps me to progress in my approach to color. My sources of inspiration are numerous, ranging from painting with all the works of Les Nabis, to the comic book universe, such as Jorge Gonzalez, Brecht Evens, Manuele Fior, to illustration; with Solotaref, short and long animated films such as The Triple of Belleville.
Ernesto’s journey to Miracasas manages to deal with difficult topics such as death, love and sacrifice in a short time. Was that a challenge? And what do these topics say about tradition?
Yes, it was a challenge because the film is very dense and doesn’t have to be indigestible. But death can be joyful. I would like our customs to make us celebrate our departure. I would like people to dance at my grave! I would like life, so fleeting, so fast, to be celebrated at the time of departure and people to have beautiful memories, even at the time of departure. Because the pain is so great … The body has difficulty with these deviations, whether real, tangible, physical or emotional. The seemingly positive film is somewhat cynical, and it was interesting to portray this mixture. Death is not so happy in the movie. It’s for the villagers because they have a new soul … but for Ernesto it’s not an easy path.