“A woman walks her dog in the park, where she meets a man she would have liked to avoid” is a synopsis of a short film by Sonja Rohleder. Is it enough to tell a story?
Sonja Rohleder is a German director of animated films who is working on both personal projects and innovative commissioned work. She is a member of a small Berlin based collective of animators and sound designers called Talking Animals making all types of animated films – from artistic 3Ds to analogue stop motion pieces. The studio’s clients include names such as Warner Music, Universal Music, ZDF, Deutsche Bahn or Audi.
Dame mit Hund was created in a time which was perfect for an experiment: Sonja received a small grant due to the success of her graduation film Cocoon Child, which came with the creative freedom of choosing both the topic and form of execution. She enjoyed working on this story, and tried to make it as intuitive as possible:
My projects tend to get more serious and uptight. I just think too much. So I had my boundaries for this film: a minimum of money, a minimum of time and the need for a doable timeless concept. Experiment and work fast! Use the instinct rather than the brain.
Sonja’s creative process is based on collecting ideas just before creating each piece. This helps her to stay focused and passionate about the work that is in progress. Dame mit Hund shows a playful world where we can see only what touches the ground, an idea she found both funny and interesting.
To tell a story with a minimum of visuals can be a real challenge: there is a chance that the audience will not understand either the story as a whole, or some elements, which will leave the viewer confused.
Sonja was dealing the same question: the film which we see is the second version of the story. The first one failed the preview test on her colleagues: some liked the result, but others didn’t understand what happened so the story needed to be restructured in order to become more accessible to the viewer. And you will notice how successful was she as each character and detail is easy to understand – even though the storytelling is minimalist in all possible ways.
The idea that “less can be more” was also highlighted in the Filmfest Dresden’s jury’s decision:
This film is clearly more than a footnote to animation film. Commencing with an incredibly simple graphic idea, it humorously challenges the viewers to visualise the narrative in their heads. The overground being created in an empty brain.
The synopsis itself might sound way too simple, but it’s the execution that makes this short film brilliant: the black background is combined with colourful footprints and graphics, and the dynamic of the story is underlined with melodic Italian language. The technique used is a mixture of 2D-animation and cut-out.
The direction, idea and production come from Sonja, who worked on the animation together with Veronica Solomon. The sound designer was Michal Krajczok, and the result received numerous awards:
- Audience Price in the “Curiosities” international competition – Les Nuits Magiques festival
- Best short film – Anilogue
- World Animation Award 2014 – 28th Leeds International Film Festival
- DEFA Promotion Prize Animation – Filmfest Dresden
- Special Mention of the National Youth Jury – Filmfest Dresden
- Special Mention – Festival Plein la Bobine.
The simplest ideas might be the most difficult to execute, but the result is in this case entertaining and heartwarming at the same time – and it also gives space to the viewer’s interpretation. To answer the question “how much do you need to tell a story”: it’s less, than one would expect – both when it comes to visuals and storytelling.