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Joseph Norman reviews Trona Pinnacles and talks to its director Mathilde Parquet.

This great short film depicts a teenage girl on a family road trip through Death Valley, California. Arriving at a motel in sun-baked heat, their complex relationship is gradually revealed through a distance and lack of communication between the parents.

Gabrielle, a 19-year-old, finds herself stuck near Death Valley between two parents who no longer speak to each other. The three of them, feeling trapped, try to escape the tension, in a huge scenery that feels unchangeable. The situation seems impossible, until an unexpected event comes to unravel everything... - Film Synopsis

ZF: How did the story develop and what were the key influences?

MP: ‘This story is inspired by my own experience. I went on this trip with my family 10 years ago and it was a very special trip. With «Trona Pinnacles» I was trying to re-transcribe all the feeling that happened. It’s a family story but it’s also about how a place can change your state of mind and give you the opportunity to see your situation with a fresh eye.

‘For the style of the background I was inspired by painters such as David Hockney or Emil Nolde. I really like their colors and how they communicate specific atmospheres in their paintings. For the staging, I have watched a lot of movies who take place in the desert. Especially "Paris Texas" of Wim Wenders, "Bagdad Café of Percy Adlon and "Mad Max: Fury Road" of George Miller.

ZF: The markmaking and wash approach is intensely distinctive and emotionally affecting. What were your intentions in using this process?

MP: Everything is about feeling things for me. So ,the feel of the paper and the gesture of traditional animation seemed obvious to me to connect with the emotions. Also I really like traditional animation because you cannot control everything, sometimes mysterious movements appear and it’s magical. and I love magic!

ZF: How did you approach the sense of landscape as character in the film?

MP: What a difficult question! Sure the landscape is a really important element of this story. At the beginning of the movie we can hear a song, like the voice of this place. But the family, stuck in their situation, cannot hear it. They can feel it just at the end when everything is peaceful.

ZF: The story feels very contemporary: what are your views on current animation practice which tells adult-oriented stories?

MP: I really like genre films. I wish to see more of them. That’s why I’m really happy for Night Bus winning the grand prize in Animafest!

Film Review (Joseph Norman)
The film uses gorgeous drenched watercolour for the landscapes, deeply atmospheric with strong echoes of the paintings of Emil Nolde. Light is compelling in establishing transitions and entrances/exits to buildings. The overall drawing approach is loose and fluid, giving a fresh and vibrant quality as the story unfolds.riving through the desert attain a realism through light and foley, and there is a sense of the landscape functioning as a place where wounds may heal and people may become close again.

Contributed by: Joseph Norman

Trona Pinnacles was in competition (short film) at the 2021 Animafest Zagreb festival.

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