Two groups of monkeys fight for a place in a hot spring.

Like a Monkey Out of Water

The technical mastery of the film is worth special notice.
Once upon a mountain within their dwellings of white mist and clouds, two groups of monkeys fight for a place in a hot spring.

Our unlikely characters, a troop of Japanese macaques known locally as Nihonzaru, live in a world of secrets quite different to our own, yet plagued by familiar tensions.

The snowstorm’s blows do little to soothe the furry feuding: from the early change of frames, it becomes clear that their indifferent calmness is merely a cover for the drama that boils within. This is the story told in the contemplative tragedy of “Hons de l’eau”.

The technical mastery of the film is worth special notice. The first thing to catch the eye is the animals’ wild beauty conveyed by the fluidity of the linework. The gold of their eyes shines in the black bezel of sclera, their faces pink like the sakura blossom.

What follows is a matter of a less appealing nature. The viewer is faced with the strict hierarchy within the group, where might makes right, sharper fangs define status, and a different shade of fur serves as a seal of otherness.

A creative choice places the camera within the eyes of our main character, a macaque mother excluded from the main group. In a visual embodiment of a first-person narrative, we see the world of monkeys just like one of them would, the trick that turns an already poignant story into a personally impactful experience.

Our fellow primates are captured with the precision of a wildlife documentary. The proud members of “Macaca fuscata” move, emote and express themselves in a way that is both undoubtably animal and unmistakenly human.

This short film applies the cinematic technique to break the boundaries between animation and live action, placing the 2D animated characters onto the stage of a real-life model. The hostile roughness of the scenery’s stones serves as a great contrast to the dynamic soft shapes of the macaques. Balancing the scales, “Hors de l’eau” maintains a delicate line between realism and fantasy in a parable for a divided age.

Common sense dictates that a cute little animal is always a bankable star, its suffering a useful industrial-grade tear squeezer the likes of pepper spray.

“Hors de l’eau” leaves such easy tricks behind. Its emotional weight is born out of craftsmanship, creativity and art. Both in its message and execution, ‘Hors de l’eau” stands strong like the mountain from its melancholic fable.

Enjoy this animated film from the FAAF collection.

Helene Pogosyan

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