Short Film Reviews: Harvie Krumpet, Kitchen Sink and Hotaru

My New Year’s resolution for 2021 was to watch a film every day. While I have been able to keep to that so far, some of my days don’t allow for a feature length and so I have been sampling just some of the incredibly vast library of short films on the internet. All of these are under half an hour and are available on either YouTube or Vimeo for free.

These three films are completely different, but all excel in creating an engaging narrative and fascinating characters. The amount of work and care that went into crafting these amazing stories with such short run times is incredibly impressive. I highly recommend all three, and suggest you take the time to experience some more of the incredible stories that are being told in short form.

Harvie Krumpet (22 mins, YouTube)

Harvie Krumpet (2003) is an Australian clay animation directed by Adam Elliot with the help of a small team. Narrated by Geoffrey Rush, it tells the story of Harvie Krumpet, a Polish man born in the 1920s who suffers a bombardment of bad luck throughout his life. We follow Harvie from birth to death as we see how he faces his misfortune with a consistently positive outlook. The film beautifully tells this tragic story with a comedic tone, bringing levity to this otherwise heart-breaking tale.

The use of the clay animation medium brings an entertaining juxtaposition to the subject matter, and perfectly conveys both visual gags and moments of emotional resonance. This irreverent animation style is complimented by a wonderful soundtrack and an incredible narration – the former accompanying the emotional beats of Harvie’s story and the latter providing much of the deadpan humour and bringing life to the characters.

Harvie Krumpet is a strange, yet deeply moving story. It won the Oscar for best animated short in 2003 and has received numerous other awards from French and Australian institutions. Elliot brings a deeply emotive story to life and tells it hilariously, creating a final product that will leave you both tickled and deeply touched.

4 stars

Kitchen Sink (13 mins, YouTube)

Kitchen Sink (1989) is a disturbing horror from New Zealand director Alison McClean. It follows a woman who discovers a strange creature in the drain hole in her kitchen sink and cares for it as it rapidly grows. It is disgusting and unsettling and, while not scary in the traditional sense, will stick with you long after viewing.

Kitchen Sink is slow, menacing and visceral. The minimal use of dialogue along with a plethora of repulsive sound effects and the use of black and white create a dark tone that will quickly get under your skin. The use of body horror is also excellent, used in moderation for maximum effect, there are some skin-crawling moments that are genuinely hard to watch. The excellent soundtrack and creeping cinematography add to the effect, putting you on edge from the opening moments. It is incredible how much of a journey we are taken on by McClean in only 13 minutes, and how much is revealed about the main character with so little actual information.

If what I am describing sound like the opposite of a good film, I get it. This is not a pleasant viewing experience in the slightest but that is where its genius lies. McClean uses suspense and grotesque imagery to create a strong emotional response. By disturbing the audience, she is throwing the spotlight directly onto the main character. As we see her navigate this horrific situation, we are forced to engage with and criticise her actions. It is a character study disguised as a horror, and the true horror may not come from the creature…

4 stars

Hotaru (21 mins, Vimeo)

Hotaru (2018) is an experimental sci-fi from French director and editor William Laboury. Using a mixture of original and archive footage and some incredible CG animation, it puts us in the mind of Martha. A girl with hyperthymesia, the inability to forget, she is implanted with the collective knowledge of the human race and sent beyond the solar system in a spacecraft as an ambassador for humanity. It is a wild premise but is executed beautifully, with a grace and humanity that sharply juxtaposes its visual style.

Hotaru is a masterclass in editing and animation. It utilises a wide range of mediums to their fullest, creating something completely unique. I have never seen anything quite like this before, and I doubt you will have either. It is hard for me to summarise the visual style of Hotaru, as it does so many things, but these are all brought together by the excellent voice acting for our main character, and Bernard, her enigmatic companion. As what we are looking at is constantly shifting and morphing, it is somewhat grounded by their conversations, as we learn more about Martha and the life she led on Earth.

Much of Hotaru is delivered from a third-eye perspective, directly showing us what Martha is thinking and feeling, allowing us to directly empathise with her. Her situation is a complicated one, and one that no one can relate to, but her emotional responses are absolutely human and are conveyed beautifully with a glitchy, retro aesthetic. As we quietly watch the events unfold, we are taken on a journey through time and space in Martha’s mind which is both visually and narratively stunning.

Hotaru is one of the most inventive films I have ever seen, and will open your eyes to the possibilities of the medium. It transcends a traditional narrative and production, opting for something completely new. I recommend this to anyone with even a vague interest in film, as it will blow you away.

4.5 stars

Adam Quinn


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