#SHORTVIEW: “Au Revoir Balthazar” by Rafael Sommerhalder


A scarecrow, a storm, a broken leg. The resonant sound of a seashell. Leaving forever.


> Why did you decide on this title, and why is the character named “Balthazar”?

When doing the film, I tried to find a title that had a name in it, to try to make it a little bit more personal, giving this “scarecrow” character a name to make it more relatable, while keeping the story vague and universal – and then I found this French name, “Balthazar”, which most people understand, you know, because of the biblical Magi, from the “three wise men”.

About the character itself, I don’t know why I decided on such a character, but I think that there’s something really interesting in a character that can’t move, and hasn’t been able to move for a long time, and suddenly is provided with the opportunity, or even the necessity, to do so.

> The change in Balthazar’s life comes by means of an accident. Do you think people need to be shocked in order to change?

Most people probably need something like that to really break free and change something in our lives, but maybe it doesn’t need to be something so dramatic. Maybe there’s a point in which you’re just fed up with how things are, and so, you’re compelled to make a change.

> The sounds and animation of your short have a very “real” feeling. How did you achieve this?

Most of it is real, after all: there is some compositing, and computers have also played a role in the process, but everything you see on the screen comes from a real camera and real materials. Some bigger shots, in which the character is very tiny in front of a big background, were put together through the work of a computer, but all of the shots themselves were made in-camera.

I really like working with the real stuff, you know, real materials. We tried to only use materials that we could fin in nature, and through that, I tried to keep the story as simple as possible, trying to find the simplest way that I could express the emotions and the events of the story. It’s kind of a tough balance, to remove everything that may be unnecessary while making everything feel together and leave some space for the audience to project themselves, but that’s what I like to do. I like the challenge.

> At risk of making the oldest question in the book – is the journey real, or is it just a dream?

Ultimately, the story is about the journey that leads Balthazar to an acceptance of its own death, and I guess you could make a comparison to these “near-death” experiences that people have while going towards the “end of the tunnel”, which for Balthazar is the sea and the sound of the waves. The whole journey is a metaphor for this passage, this going to the “other side”.

Some people didn’t like the abstraction, or did not get or like the message at all – and we had a simpler version initially, but for us, it was a little bit too clear. We like the way in which the final product is a little bit ambiguous. We wanted the audience to experience this ambiguity, and that’s why, in the end, you don’t really know if this thing happened or not. But that’s what’s so enthusing about the whole thing, don’t you think?

At the point of the interview, Rafael was busy with commission work, but he very much looked forward to working on more personal projects for “his own sake”.


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