At the time, I was finishing my course at L’École nationale supérieure des Arts Décoratifs (ENSAD) in Paris, where I specialized in illustration. During the course I’d done a bit of everything: graphic design, set design, printmaking, typography, animation. I was really drawn to animation, but I was struggling to find a way into it as a profession. I wasn’t an animation craftsman — that wasn’t what ENSAD’s teaching was about. What I liked was the vast potential of this technique and what it offered: the ability to make films alone.
Also, you have to remember the context of the time, when there was very little internet. Outside animation festivals, there was almost no way to watch independent and short-form animation. Animation was Disney, Pixar, Ghibli, and MTV! Each time I saw a short film, it knocked me out. I thought: wow, you can do that? It was dizzying.
Watch “When the Day Breaks” below:
I rewatched When the Day Breaks recently and love it as much as ever. I think the short film is the format of choice for animation. That’s where the auteur can deliver their work most directly to the viewer. The film’s short length enables the creation of a language, of conventions, that may be harder to sustain over a longer format.
I like it when cinema keeps viewers active and doesn’t take them for fools. When I see this film, understanding it isn’t necessarily what’s important to me. That isn’t the point — there’s no plot, strictly speaking. What’s important to me is to feel something. It’s a bit like when I listen to music: it’s carnal, visceral. The film makes me feel the fragility of the everyday. The invisible, random connections that link our individual solitudes.
Solitude is an area I’m especially keen on. Every kind of solitude is different, and all offer a different perspective on life. That’s what I like. And the setting for all this is the city that watches us go round, that plans our trajectories. I like this urban poetry.
As a viewer, I like it when space is left for me inside a film. By this, I just mean that the director has cared for me and considered me as an individual, not a consumer. Nothing bores me more than a film that addresses everyone in the same way. In my work, I try to leave room for the viewers so that they aren’t passively sitting there, but rather telling themselves their own stories within mine.
Regarding rotoscoping, I spent a long time thinking about whether to resort to this technique on live-action images for I Lost My Body. In the end I opted for a form of rotoscoping based on 3d animation. The aim was to harness the advantages of 3d (cameras, fidelity to the models, realism) without the disadvantages (a realistic rendering that’s cold and heavy), and also the advantages of 2d animation (spontaneity, an evocative quality, the pictorial aspect) without the disadvantages (cost, difficulty of a realist approach).
I love When the Day Breaks, so I see no flaws in it. I like accidents, faults — they’re linked to the authenticity and fragility of creation. To me, perfection in a film would be a flaw. Unfortunately, I’ve never had the chance to discuss the film with Wendy Tilby or Amanda Forbis. I don’t believe we’ve ever met. I was fortunate enough to see their film Wild Life, which I also liked a lot. They have their own sense of narration and comedy!
Clapin’s comments were translated from French.