Monday Shorts is a blog series I write for the Quickdraw Animation Society, spotlighting an independent animated short each week.
Festivals and film critics are prone to splitting films into binaries to make them easier to talk about. Films are fiction or non-fiction, comedy or drama, animated or live action. Within animation, films are 2D or 3D, CG or hand-drawn, narrative or non-narrative. As useful as those terms can be in quickly conveying something about a film, they all share the same issue: none of those pairs are as binary as we like to think. The best art thrives on ambiguity, pushing back against easy definition in ways that challenge our need to categorize everything.
Mirai Mizue’s 2018 short Dreamland is a perfect example. The whole film is a rapidly-cut assemblage of rigid geometric shapes and patterns, with nothing resembling a representational drawing, let alone a character. If you were to judge it based on the looped GIFs that Mizue shares on his Twitter feed, it’d be hard to see it as anything but non-narrative. It epitomizes the “abstract shape” stream of animation that dates back to Oskar Fischinger’s optical poems from the 1930s—a stream that has a “love it or hate it” reputation among even the most dedicated cinephiles.
Abstract as it is, though, Dreamland has a real emotional arc…