Directed by Max Vannienschoot
Narrative | 9 minutes | Canada | 2022 | English | SPECIAL SCREENING
Astride his motorcycle, Oskar speeds through serene landscapes along the North Sea, hoping to avoid a storm that looms over the horizon. Exhausted from running away, he stops on a vast and bright beach to enjoy the comfort of a cigarette as he considers his options and the journey ahead. But this respite is short-lived—the tumultuous weather has already caught up with him. And so, he chooses to turn around and face it. As the storm rages, he is engulfed in its darkness. Will he be able to find his way back to the light?
Director Bio and Statement
Originally from Belgium, Max Vannienschoot graduated from Supinfocom, in digital production, in 2007. After nine years spent working for various animation studios, he embarked on a new career path, writing his first short film: Oskar. His personal experiences are the basis for his creative process and have led him to take an interest in the many facets of human nature. He is also passionate about analog photography, painting, and drawing, but through animation he has found the ideal medium for expressing his thoughts.
In September 2018, my friend Oskar chose to end his life. News of his suicide reached me as I was setting foot in the Montreal airport. I was just returning from Belgium where I had spent a few weeks but had been unable to see him again. Though I wanted to go back to Belgium right away, I missed his funeral. This short film is my tribute to him.
He and I are both animators. We met 11 years ago, at the Blue Spirit animation studio in Brussels. Very quickly, we developed a beautiful friendship. During the time in which we were both living in Montreal, I started to see a dark side to his personality, a kind of inner duality that was slowly eating away at him. On several occasions, we had long discussions about this growing inner turmoil, caused by his daily struggle with a darkness that was gradually taking hold of him and his desire to escape it and to find his way back to a lighter place. In writing my film, these conversations were foundational.
Since Oskar and I mostly discussed feelings, I decided to create a figurative context, to better depict them. I ride motorcycles, and many of the things he described, thoughts he shared, resonated with this aspect of my personality, with questions or contemplations that I may have had while riding. So I used these personal experiences to convey my understanding of his distress.
In building this figurative context, I gradually began to think about the aesthetics of the film, the character, and his personality traits. It naturally led me to create a character who turns out to be an equal mix of both our personalities. From Oskar, I borrowed some physical features, the fact that he smoked cigarettes, and the apparent calm that seemed to drive each of his actions (in stark contrast with what was happening inside him). I combined it all with my fondness for riding motorcycles and some of my personality traits, including an impetuous streak.
My interpretation, this portrayal of a personal experience, is a unique story that also reflects so many others, lived by people who are going through or who have gone through a similar ordeal. With Oskar’s story, beyond my wish to pay homage to him, I want to open up a conversation about a sensitive topic that is generally taboo, and yet so common: a personal malaise that runs so deep it leads to suicide. Through this lens, I hope to build more awareness about how we can listen to others, to those we love, and be attuned to the distress signals that they may send us, signals that we often underestimate.
Lastly, directing this short film was a journey, a pilgrimage, which will have helped me to come to peace, in a way, with this bend in the road that I truly did not see coming. But it will only have been made possible thanks to the strength, involvement, and talent of each of the many humans who accompanied me throughout production and who chose to believe in the project from day one, when the film was still in its infancy. I want to express my wholehearted gratitude to each of them.
Elodie Pollet, Camille Lequenne
List of editors
List of cinematographers
Music & Sound
List of music credits