N+2: T.R.A.N.S.I.T. - Piet Kroon (1998)

21 marzo 2012

T.R.A.N.S.I.T. - Piet Kroon (1998)

No Dialogue / Sin Diálogos

Animación ambientada en los años veinte que narra, a manera de retrospectiva, la historia de Emmy, una mujer dividida entre el amor de dos hombres, Oskar y Felix. En la lucha por este agitado amor, los personajes recorrerán diferentes cuidades del mundo.
Nominado al BAFTA, el corto desarrolla un estilo visual y narrativo único animado por un artista diferente, entre los que se encuentra, por mencionar alguno, Michael Dudok de Witt.

"Piet Kroon's T.R.A.N.S.I.T. is a 12-minute masterpiece set across Europe between the wars. This dialogue-free mystery story is told backward, with shifts in location (Cairo, Baden, Venice and finally The Orient Express)--all held together through the travel stickers on a leather suitcase. What we suppose at first to be a tale of espionage turns out to be something different; real pain and tragedy take the place of the Agatha Christie/Graham Greene entertainment we were expecting. Kroon has made T.R.A.N.S.I.T. ambitiously, sensuously beautiful, but he also takes apart the illusions of the time. After he delivers an aerial view of a white luxury ocean liner, with shuffleboard games and attenuated passengers, he dives into the smokestack to show us the stokers in the belly of the ship, working in the flames and the darkness."

"(...) From an analytical viewpoint, what makes T.R.A.N.S.I.T. so fascinating is that these three unusual elements aren't just there for show. The film needs them in order to work.

First, the art styles. Though the film was written and directed by Piet Kroon, director of DaDA, production designer Gill Bradley actually created the designs for each segment based on art styles popular around the time of T.R.A.N.S.I.T.'s setting. The result: seven examples of individual artistic sensibility unified by the vision of one person. As well as a different location, each segment also uses a different palette and evokes a different mood, providing a kind of visual barometer of the emotional ups and downs of young Emmy's life. What's amazing is that despite the different styles and directors, a casual viewer could look at any two sequences and never doubt that they're from the same film.

(...) Next, the reversed storytelling. Whereas Seinfeld used this device for comedy, T.R.A.N.S.I.T. uses it for tragedy. In the first (last?) four segments, we see three lives being destroyed; in the last (first?) three, we see the events that led up to it all, and experience a certain sense of inevitability. We want to warn Emmy of what her actions will bring. As more is revealed, we also want to warn Felix, then Oscar. However, like some mythical prophet, we've seen the future and all we can do is observe.

Reversed storytelling is a wonderful device when it works, and it works well in T.R.A.N.S.I.T: seemingly straightforward events are all the more significant because we know the consequences of the characters' actions. T.R.A.N.S.I.T. combines many of my favorite aspects of Peter Chung's Æon Flux, not the least of which is stellar, non-linear, dialogue-free narrative. It's relatively easy to find films that effectively tell stories without dialogue. What's harder is finding films that tell complicated, emotionally laden films without dialogue. Narrow those down to the few that use unconventional structure, and you're left with a scant handful. T.R.A.N.S.I.T. is one of them.

T.R.A.N.S.I.T. also features an evocative score which wraps around the viewer and draws him into the story; a story which requires the viewer to pay attention to detail and actively think about the events on the screen, rather than have everything spelled out. Revelation and understanding are earned as the mysteries of the past are peeled away. It's a feast for the mind as well as the eyes and ears.

All of this leads to my disappointment with the film's end, which I won't reveal here. First, we see the seemingly immortal suitcase meet its demise. Second and more importantly, subtitles come up to tell us a little about Emmy and Felix, and what happened to them. After brilliantly unfolding the events over ten minutes without titles or dialogue, to have this final morsel revealed so blatantly is just out of place. It doesn't exactly wrap things up, but it detracts from that ingredient we had savored throughout the rest of the film; that delicious sense of gradual, though maddeningly incomplete understanding. Ultimately, the real pleasure of T.R.A.N.S.I.T. is not in the destination, the film's ending, but rather in the journey we took to get there."




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