Displacement is a heavy word. As millions find themselves uprooted from the familiar and forced, by their circumstances, to find a home elsewhere, displacement, culture shock, and their ilk are not only not universal experiences, they do not always find empathy either. Amidst that, Cleto Acosta-McKillop made a queer decision with his short animation, Moon Melody— he let his protagonist be, and instead displaced his surroundings and source of comfort.
In that, he makes this a universal experience. A little boy, lying on the grass atop a hill, happily watches the butterflies and birds go about their day. There’s a warm sun out, and an equally visible moon. A butterfly comes to rest awhile on his nose. And then, upon taking flight, a bird eats the butterfly; the sun goes out, and with it the moon, leaving the little boy behind in darkness. Acosta-McKillop uses Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov’s The Story of the Kalendar Prince as the background score for the film, and the music is divinely used. Upon losing his world, the boy sets out in its search, meeting all sorts of people in the process, who have almost nothing in common with him. And yet, a kind lady feeds him, another man shows him the way where he might find the sun, moon and warmth again. With the beginning of this quest, the animation blooms in quality and style, delivering visuals that are both otherworldly and yet intensely close to heart.
Above all, the film’s success lies in portraying the abject loneliness of being separated from all that is familiar and comfortable. By taking away the very light in the little boy’s world and sending him on a path filled with snow for miles ahead, the film creates a powerful portrayal of what displacement and the resulting culture shock feels like. For all this gravity, there is just a little boy with a big smile and big ears at the centre of it. And the story is all the more affecting for it.
When he does find the familiarity he has been running after, it does not feel familiar and warm at all. The only thing that is still the same is one of his luminescent butterflies, still happy to rest awhile on his nose. If that is not identifiable, what is?#ShortFilmReview: Moon Melody: Loss is universal, even when nothing else is. Click To Tweet