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Review: Sea Sigh (2015)

Director: Marlies van der Wel | 11 minutes | short film, animation

Marlies van der Wel made three trips through the Netherlands in two years, to comb kilometers of beach. She used the things she found in an inventive way in her charming animation film “Zeezucht” (2015): in a collage, combined with her characteristic artwork. Hours of writing, sketching, painting, drawing and further elaboration into an animation film of about eleven minutes followed. “Funnily enough, just like with Jonas (the main character in her movie, ed.), Everything I made during the past two years made my ‘happy ending’ possible,” she explains. “I didn’t know what the end of the movie would look like until the last two weeks of production. Then I found my big fish. ”

“Zeezucht” is a beautiful example of hand-painted craftsmanship in which Marlies can showcase her own style and approach. Central is the enchantment of the underwater world, the intransigence of the protagonist and the pursuit of a great dream. From the moment Jonas sees the sea as a child, he knows: this is his home. Not to look at it, to swim in or to sail on. No, he wants to be one with the sea and never leave it. He spent his life scouring the beach in search of objects to build bizarre installations that will help him on his way to a new life among the fish. Now that Jonas is old he has to face the limitations of his inventions and body. Time is running out to make his dream come true …

Jonas is the epitome of persistence: although the chance that he can make his dream come true is quite small, he puts everything aside for a lifetime to make a life in the sea possible. This optimist pur sang does not let himself be discouraged by setbacks. His inventions are quite simple during his childhood, they become more and more complex as Jonas gets older. This sympathetic little man cannot be denied resourcefulness. The fishermen who keep seeing him fail are not at all interested in the beauty of the ocean; they have no ideals and just want to consume. Van der Wel gave them all the same appearance, in order to underline their one-dimensional view of the world.

“Zeezucht”, or “homesickness for the sea”, rightly deserved the Professional Award for Dutch animation at the Holland Animation Film Festival 2016. Not only is the film exceptionally well made and original, it also expresses a lot of love. From the maker for her work, for the sea in all its beauty and for its unyielding protagonist Jonas. He is a man of few words, but he does not need them. We get all his emotions from a single gesture or small movement. The story, in all its simplicity, appeals to the imagination. A touch of humor and a pinch of melancholy complete this tiny masterpiece.

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