Written and directed by Robert Allen and animated by a team of third-year students at The Animation Workshop in Viborg, Whale Heart tells the story of a father and son, their journey to hunt a whale and the boy’s initiation into a grim tradition. Allen breathes fresh life into this classic tale by combining it with nautical tradition and stop motion animation that is reminiscent of 1920s German films such as The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari.
The film’s visual style is striking; it has such an immense quality, as if sculpture has been made to move, and the stop motion animation style gives it an incredibly charming and jittery effect. This animated style clashes with the mature themes of the story, creating a tragic fable instead of a charming fairytale.
There is a wealth of folklore and myth within this quaint vignette. The father keeps the heart of a previously hunted whale to extract his emotions and maintain his strength. This mythology thrusts the audience into a rich tradition that feels as if it has existed for many generations, intimately being passed from father to son.
Glimpses into the dreams and spirituality of the hunt recall scenes from Malick’s The Tree of Life, rich in swirling galaxies and abstract imagery. These dream-visions serve as premonitions, giving only limited suggestions of what the future might hold. Small possibilities leave the father-figure trying to piece together the future, bringing him to question the path he is leading his son down; the path he himself was once led down. Whale Heart addresses issues of fatherhood and childhood simultaneously, with the grace of the dreams experienced by its characters.
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DIRECTOR: Robert Allen
WRITER: Robert Allen
ART DIRECTOR/CHARACTER DESIGN: Trine Sørensen
PRODUCTION MANAGER: Antoine J. L. L. Lefevre
MUSIC: Kenneth Lampl and Kirsten Lampl
SYNOPSIS: Silas lives in an isolated whaling town, toiling for months in the harsh and bloody trade on which he and his community depend. The time has now come for his only son to be initiated into the grim and dangerous whaling life, and Silas must be the one to teach him.