When you imagine an amateur animated film, childish scribbles with an equally juvenile story spring to mind, or worse; a pretentious abstract piece set to music that leaves viewers feeling baffled and cheated. Luiz Stockler’s short film Vovó could not be any further from this image; it’s his graduation piece from the University of Wales, and it’s highly impressive. At only two and a half minutes, this charming, subtle and understated film manages to pack a weighty emotional punch.
Describing his grandfather (hence the title), Stockler relies on little more than his own voice and a handful of simple images in muted colours, but to great effect. The short, separate sentences give touching glimpses into the character of his grandfather, ranging from the mundane and physical (he was bald), to Stockler’s personal memories. I’m impressed with how much of his grandfather’s character Stockler imprints into this film, with carefully chosen episodes and phrases bringing this quiet and beloved old man to life.
The animation is surprising and engaging; with bold, flowing lines and a wonderful balance between simplistic composition and specific moments of detail, with striking and memorable images of fingernails, holes in leather shoes and a telephone on the table in the hall. What impresses me most, however, are the smooth and seemingly effortless transitions between frames; a smiling crocodile becomes the hands on a clock face so seamlessly that you’re barely aware that it’s happening. This gentle flow of images matches with the quiet and discreet script; the barely-audible background noise from the microphone blends with the pale browns and greys to create a calming but memorable atmosphere.
There’s a contrast as well as a harmony between script and images; whilst the script has an exceptionally narrow focus on Stockler’s grandfather, the images barely touch the perimeters of the man in question, taunting the viewer with his scalp, feet and hands. This makes it even more remarkable that we gain such a strong impression of a man that, in reality, we never see. Using shots from his grandfather’s point of view (we see the hair fall into the sink as he trims his moustache), the viewer feels even more connected to this simultaneously familiar and distant figure.
There are some really touching moments in this film; my personal favourite is when the fish gradually transformed into a metaphorical image for Stockler and his grandfather, the bigger fish turning and patiently waiting for the smaller fish to catch up before swimming off shot. This beautiful and soft film perfectly captures a relationship that is both everyday and extraordinary, with an ending that at first seems tragic, but is in fact both comforting and reaffirming.