A stained carpet. A man looks forlorn. The stained carpet again, but this time a stop motion figure falls to the floor and a voice-over can be heard saying, ‘I never did manage to bring you that cup of coffee did I?’. So begins Anna Eijsbouts’ Tired of Swimming, a short and sad animation about a widowed husband.
First off, it should be said that this film looks beautiful, but it’s not that Tired of Swimming boasts the glean of a perfected finish – quite the opposite; the film’s look is a little rough around the edges with its puppets’ wax bodies and shamelessly exposed wire skeletons. Rather, Tired of Swimming is beautiful because of its willingness to tell a story with patience and at a measured pace. We come to understand the husband’s journey through grief and loneliness by watching him in moments of stillness and by looking at his silhouette, not by watching incredible visual spectacles. This is not to criticise Eijscouts’ technical abilities though – indeed, what makes Tired of Swimming such an accomplished piece is its ability to mimic the placid features of live action cinema, like the gentle swaying of an old man at rest, or a close up of a coffee stain shot with an extremely shallow depth of field. Moreover, what is so impressive is that the film does this without making its image appear sterile or lifeless: Eijscouts negotiates still and gentle scenes by breathing just the right amount of life into her stop motion creations, and by setting their movements to the understated realism of Mauricio d’Orey’s sound design, which although detailed and attentive, never overreaches itself. Viewers should take care not to be lulled by this short’s realist tendencies however, for as much as this film emulates live action, it makes use of animation’s unique ability to visualise the surreal.
Eijscouts’ film is content to tell a simple story in its own time and in its own special way, and although it might borrow from other cinema, it is most certainly its own kind of film. A mature and insightful look into longing, loss, and old age, Tired of Swimming is a delicate and thoughtful piece of animation.
This post is part of a series on Greenhorn Short Film Festival. You can read my review of other short films screened at Greenhorn, as well as a review of the festival itself, here:
Tired of Swimming