Sometimes we reach for fireworks and confetti to make a big bang. I love vivacity and voluptuousness, joyful work that blazes its colours. But nothing beats melancholy when it is pitched just right. Nuanced darkness can be most beautiful. It connects in ways in which happy bright pop melodies can’t. Among The Black Waves is an animated short film of such beauty and quality that is rarely found today. I have seen a lot of work that is stylistically similar, but does not possess the same delicate gradations of feeling, the perfect timing, the depth that comes through the hundreds of pages of hand-drawn animation.
Among the Black Waves is a piece of work by Russian animator Anna Budanova, created with the help of a small team of helpers. Budanova hails from the Yekaterinburg, a city renowned for producing many talented animators still working in traditional hand-drawn animation. This particular short film was made from hundreds of drawings on A4 cartridge paper, rendered in ink and oil pastel. It is hard to believe that something so visually pared back, yet so rich and textural could have been made from such humble materials. Not only is the animation style spared from unneeded detail, distilling the essence of the story to atmospheric monochrome, dialogue is also absent. Despite the seeming lack, the full 11 minutes of animation are totally engrossing.
The story itself is based around a Celtic legend in which drowned people turn into seals. Similar tales exist in many cultures. In this story, a seal-woman is caught by a man, held captive, and eventually comes to terms with her new life on land. But she never stops longing for the sea. It is a story about love and freedom, as much as anything else. Watch the full short below, it will be the most worthy 11 minutes you spend online today.
Check out some behind-the-scenes sketches on Anna Budanova’s Tumblr, and follow her updates on Facebook. You even have the chance to purchase one of the original drawings from Among the Black Waves. Her first animated short film, The Wound, is also available here.