Animated short Arka from Natko Stipaničev brings to life an exploration of the folly and unexpected nature of existence and transformation through a snapshot of life aboard a transoceanic cruise ship. Not pulling any punches, Stipaničev’s short is an acerbic commentary on our own sinking and failing world told through a brief overview of a very odd yet homogenous collection of pampered human passengers and beasts. A peculiar yet beguiling world where differing levels of human and animal life interact oddly within their confines, each offering their own reflection on the lives we all lead. It’s a viewing experience which rewards multiple views in order to fully appreciate the different layers and questions which spring up each time. Joining us today, we speak to Stipaničev about the inspiration behind the film and creating a surreal narrative which rewards active viewing in its audience.
What inspired you to talk about transformation through the means of animation?
Animated film is my medium of expression. When I was starting to write the film, my initial inspiration were the musicians on the deck of the Titanic and the stoic idea of coming to terms with your fate. Then there was also an interesting fact that my grandmother officially lived in four different countries throughout her life yet didn’t leave her hometown her whole life. I also wanted to address global warming and rising sea levels. Soon, in the process, we realized that the ship itself is open to many metaphors and decided to keep it open for various interpretations.
Arka has a surreal quality to it that very much lends itself to interpretation.
I like to keep things open and provoke the audience’s thoughts. The script was written so it gradually reveals all the necessary information and has just enough information so that the interesting questions can form in the viewer’s mind.
My initial inspiration were the musicians on the deck of the Titanic and the stoic idea of coming to terms with your fate.
What animation techniques did you use here and what was the overall feel you wanted to evoke in audiences?
I did it mostly in 3D and later added some 2D elements. I tried to roughly mimic the peculiar feel of stop motion animation with various methods to get the bizarre atmosphere of the film.
Are the animals biblical references? What’s their role in the narrative?
They are the reference for Noah’s Ark or the vessel of salvation. All the animals in the film come in pairs except the dove. The dove, instead of bringing the olive branch and the hope to the people, poops on the ship’s bridge. The idea was just to keep animals as part of the mise-en-scène to give a touch of the surreal to the whole film.
How did you decide on the types of characters to include and their roles aboard the cruise ship?
Maša Seničić and Damir Juričić, my co-writers and I agreed at the beginning on the right amount of characters in the film and to include most of the stereotypical passengers to portray everyday life on a cruise ship. We quickly realized that there cannot be any lead role between passengers because the main character is the ship itself.
We realized that the ship itself is open to many metaphors and decided to keep it open for various interpretations.
And what guided your choice of Vivaldi for the film’s score?
Vivaldi’s Stabat Mater just fitted perfectly in the whole solemn and sarcastic feel that the film underlines.
How did you find the audience reception through your film festival run?
Unfortunately a bit disappointing. The film came out just a month before the pandemic came so all the festivals either cancelled or went online. It’s a bummer because I purposely made the film for a cinema experience. Even though it screened at more than 70 festivals I didn’t experience much of a festival run and the audience reception.
What have you been inspired to work on next?
I am now working on a new animated film. It’s about a small cat and a couple that adopts her but in general, it’s about the human relation to the ‘other’. I think it’s going to be a slow-crawling thriller.