Rebecca Essler and Alexandra Battault have created Deus, a superb animated video set to the etherial music of French four-piece Le A, whilst the pair were studying film animation at Bordeaux creative school ECV. Their piece is a powerful dichotomy giving way to the pessimism of film noir eluding pain and destruction, whilst encased in spellbinding beauty. A film which stunningly illustrates the fight to free one’s self from the evils that attempt to absorb and corrupt us throughout our lives. It was a privilege to delve deeper into the creative minds of Rebecca and Alexandra, to hear about the spheres in which Deus was born and the inner workings used to execute such an elegantly hypnotic film.
What inspired this phenomenal piece?
We wanted to create a metaphor behind a story to which the viewer was left open to free interpretation. The apprehension of being yourself in relation to others is a theme we have thought about for some time, this became the cornerstone of our film. We envisioned making a clip which combined our two worlds, the universes created in our imaginations and align them, alongside collaborating with our talented friends Le A for the music score.
Our heroine is constantly pursued, running to escape being seized by a sundry of allegorical demons. What do the ‘demons’ represent for you both?
We wanted to explore the idea that fleeing conformism and that feeling of being trapped in a loop of judgment and false morality. The ‘demons’ represent the unconscious infliction from the surrounding world, always being an obstacle in the way of our inner freedom.
How did you establish the aesthetics of the piece and then translate them to the screen?
The aesthetics of the film were a problem as we had to relate 3D and 2D computer graphics. We wanted something that looked like paintings and drawings with a rough aspect. Our principal reference was the video clip Mojo Thunder from The Peach Kings. We love the rhythm and the graphic aspect it has. The length of the music also helped us choose a process that wouldn’t take us too long to manage. We think the design also comes from the music and the theme itself, combined with the worlds we create in our minds. Everything seemed to work well together. The dark atmosphere is carried by the music which in turn, gave strength to our story.
Please talk us through your decision to use only a black and white colour pallet.
In the beginning, we wanted to create a black and white film with one or two colours guiding us through the story, but then again we were running out of time and decided to leave the colour out. We like the black and white as it is a symbol of two extremes. It was also very important for the clip as everything is related to light and we wanted to create a contrast between clearness and obscurity which coalesce in the end.
What materials/software did you use?
We only worked digitally using our little chubby fingers playing around with Maya, TV Paint and Photoshop. The layout and camera movements are made in 3D and painted over frame by frame.
Although ominous and foreboding, the film exudes an elegant and graceful fluidity which travels in perfect harmony with the music. How did you approach keeping the flow and pace consistent throughout the film?
The fact that Alex is playing drums and bass made a big difference when editing. Working symbiotically with the music helped us keep the pace and rhythm all along.
Is any of the darkness of the piece inspired by your own life experiences?
We believe everything we create comes from life experience. For example: When you travel from one place to another on a bicycle, the bike is what got you there, we believe the same rules apply for life experience. However, this clip is not too personal because we think everybody experiences these feelings in various dosages and in various forms. We all glide down spirals of doubt about who we are and whether we are progressing in the right direction. Although, now we try not to let these feelings of doubt paralyse us in the way they have done previously because then we cannot change or progress, which we believe then kills our freedom.
We wanted to explore the idea that fleeing conformism and that feeling of being trapped in a loop of judgment and false morality.
The film is reminiscent of Unkle’s Rabbit in Your Headlights, where do you take your inspiration from, who do you admire and why?
Actually, Unkle’s Rabbit in Your Headlights was one of our references for the atmosphere in the tunnel and the oppression and unconscious cruelty of the outside world. One of our biggest inspirations is David Lynch. He gives us the reality we are looking for in his bizarre funny visions of the universe, always leaving us uncertain about dreams, reality and which is which.
Alex is fond of René Laloux , Moebius, P.K Dick, Terry Gilliam and many more, mostly because of the great science fiction universes and the confrontation with reality. As well as the movies Brazil, Akira, Scanner Darkly, Alien and so on. I used to watch Watership Down as a weeping 5-year-old. I liked a variety of movies from many different directors. Alongside my passion for books by authors such as Hemingway, Oscar Wilde, Edgar Allan, Poe, Herman Hesse, Virginia Wolf…mostly because of their ability to tell a story that reveals something to us about ourselves.
What have you learnt from your journey creating Deus? What advice would you give to someone embarking upon their first animation?
It was a great experience. We feel we surpassed ourselves! It was a pleasant and rewarding journey because we understood each other’s ideas and bounced from one suggestion to another. But conversely, it was also mentally and physically exhausting. It is difficult to be motivated till the end and not lose faith in your project. We think you should trust yourself even if you can’t be sure of the end result, fight for your ideas and be careful not to take every piece of advice that is given to you. You also shouldn’t be discouraged by others telling you the project is too big for you to handle!
Are you planning on working together again in the future, and what do you think makes for a successful collaborative relationship?
Trusting one another and giving each other the space in which to develop their own work is extremely important. You need to communicate clearly and always give your honest opinion. Listening and accepting criticism, even if it’s hard to hear and puts you in a frowny mood, as this will help you to improve your work, and of course…take regular whiskey breaks! As we seem to be BFFEAE we most certainly will be working together again soon. We have some ideas, looping around in our heads, but there’s nothing to be born just yet.