Monday, October 13, 2008


By Ryan McDougal, Canada, 2006, 2 minutes 35 seconds
Source: You Tube

Sonata is an animated short film about a man who is battling with himself to take a chance or not.

The music used in the short film above is actually from the soundtrack of Amelie. The Director notes that a different piece was composed for the final version of the film due to usage rights.

There is no dialogue in Sonata and yet I did not miss it. McDougal was able to convey the emotions of the man through facial expressions, body language, the music used, and I dare say his footsteps, without adding some kind of inner monologue. If the man was mumbling to himself about how he should "just go in and ask her out," I would have liked the film a great deal less. The simplicity of the film and the characters actions is in my opinion the point of Sonata.  

My personal favorite scene in Sonata is right after a random person walks by on the street coughing, and the man imagines himself walking down the street with the woman from the café. It looks as if they are ghosts walking away, and then they disappear. I love that part because it shows the pure intentions of this man and his lowly request. I felt a real sympathy with this character because he isn’t asking for the world. He isn’t some tragic hero with vaulting ambition. All he wants in this moment is to have a relationship with this woman, and I find that refreshing.

The ending of Sonata is very fitting. I love how the last shot is of the man opening the door to the café and then the screen turns white. The fact that the screen turns white rather than the usual black can have connotations of its own. Because most films end on a black screen, the white screen adds contrast and a “happier” ending. What I mean is that it signifies that the man successfully asks the woman out, and they live happily ever after (or something like it).

There are only two things I do not like about this film, both having to do with the animation. One being that at one point the man looks as if he has breasts. This took my mind away from the tension in his face and had me solely focused on his “man-boobs.” The other comment I have on the animation is that there seems to be no windows. It looked as if there was no glass between the windowpanes. Overall, those two critiques are very small on the grand scheme of a short film, but they caught my attention nonetheless.


Jeremy said...

One of my favorite things about animation is that the animator is not limited by an actor's range of expressions. The animator can make a face in exaggerated glee or subtle satisfaction. In fact, the closer it comes to photorealism, the worse it looks. You end up in the uncanny valley.

A live action version of this film would not be so successful because the range of expression would be necessarily limited. Only an actor of ridiculous talent would be able to pull it off. But it's easy to animate it.

Michael said...

Regarding the ending of the film, I am going to play devil's advocate. I agree the film has a beautiful ending, but where did you come up with "it signifies that the man successfully asks the woman out, and they live happily ever after" ? When people are presumed dead, the coroner covers their face with a white sheet. Could we agree the white screen signifies the death of this character's melancholy?

Benjamin said...

Interesting idea, and I also thought of the "ascent into heaven" quality of the blinding white light (purity, joy, glory?) The piano-centric score really sold this to me (but maybe I'm just partial to pianos). Again, Canada seems to be a real source for interesting short animation.

Caren Jensen said...

I only said that the white screen at the end "signifies that the man successfully asks the woman out and they live happily ever after" because that is how I thought it ended. The white screen, to me, represents happiness and in a perfect animated world, that is how the story would most likely end. That is just my interpretation of it.

I like your idea of the white screen signifying "the death of this character's melancholy." But I would say that if the two people lived "happily ever after" wouldn't that also be the death of his melancholy?

I'm not sure if I'm allowed to defend my myself this way through the comments, because I'm guessing it will up the number of comments I get because I am technically commenting on myself. So I'm sorry professor if this throws off the count.

Anonymous said...

I like the happily ever after idea. but I'm just a hopeless romantic.

good luck on the posts Caren!

Anonymous said...

I really enjoyed the color play in the film, particularly the glowing red of the tulip against the street colors of blue, white, and lamp yellow. The film would not have been the same with a rose; a thin tulip is humbler, more of what the man can offer.

Additionally, I would argue that the white screen need not symbolize either success or failure in love, but rather the man's success at overcoming his fear and walking in the door. A fade to black would have made less sense in that regard.

Anonymous said...

Lately I have been seeing a lot of Canadian film, a lot more than I realized was out there. Overall I really like that nation's film projects. they have a certain element to them that American films lack. I think that Sonata is a good example of that element.

I agree with Jeremy that if this was shot in live action, the facial expressions would be limited by the actor. too many times have I gone to see a movie that was adapted from a book I had read, and the actor just stares off into space while the book gives so much more insight into the emotions of that character. I think the animation goes the same way. It is easier to give emotions in writing and animations than to find an actor who can depict the wide range of emotions.

Anonymous said...

Such a good film. I love the music in the background. it really fits with the story. the way the man hesitates is so sweet. you really get the feeling that he is nervous, and you feel nervous for him in return.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Kim that the white screen symbolizes "the man's success at overcoming his fear and walking in the door." I think everyone else was just over thinking it and trying to find meaning where there is none. Just take the film for what it is. We still don't know the girl's answer. Maybe she shot him down, but at least he walked through that door.

Anonymous said...

Caren, I can totally see what you mean about the "man-boobs." they were very distracting. I can't believe the animators didn't notice it. or maybe they did and it is like in the Disney movies where there are references to sex.