My grandmother often said ‘nothing in this world is perfect’. Obviously she’d never tried my lasagne or watched the simply beautiful Short, Poussière (which, Google Translate informs me, is French for dust). This simple tale of a piece of dust being swallowed by a vacuum cleaner, and its subsequent break for freedom, is one of the most endearing animated Shorts you can find.
Created by a trio of Gallic talent (Leyla Kaddoura, Nicolas Ughen and Vic Chhun) at France’s trade school for animation – EMCA – Poussière explores themes of love and loneliness with the humility and reserve that helps emphasise the universality of these emotions. Reticence is an oft overlooked quality in film making and the animation style perfectly matches the spirit of the piece, from the simplistic (almost child-like) font of the opening titles to the image of our piece of dust lost amongst thousands of his own kind.
This restraint gives the film an overwhelming sense of innocence. When the piece of dust is awoken by the intrusion of the vacuum, he yawns and is soon forced out of his sanctuary into a world where he’s surrounded by others, but still painfully alone. You can read more into the story as an allegory for birth, but leaving subtext alone, some of the scenes are oddly haunting, for instance the image of our protagonist alone in the trashcan. Like the new kid at school, seeing the cliques and his active exclusion from others around him, the feeling of isolation saturates this story so much you leave it feeling strangely melancholic for the remainder of the day.
This exclusion is furthered when our main character makes a bid to escape the bin and realises that he’s too heavy to be lifted by the wind. In one last gamble for freedom, he jumps into the water. Concurrently running in flashbacks that bookend the central narrative is a deeply moving love story that leaves us with so many unanswered questions. With the arbitrary jumps in time that chart their relationship, it leaves us wondering what happened to this love – we’re shown how he meets her, invites her for dinner, but not how their romance is closed. Does she die? Does he never ask her to marry him? I’ll leave the interpretation up to you. This ambiguity is, however, something that really only adds to the poignancy of the piece. As for the finale that ties back in with the opening shot, keep a tissue close at hand.