Luis is the second part of a two-part stop motion animation series, Lucia, Luis y el lobo, created by Colectivo Diluvio, a Chilean audiovisual arts and film production company formed by artists: Niles Attalah, Joaquín Cociña and Cristóbal León.
The two parts are connected, but they can be watched and understood separately. Both revolve around the same story, it’s the narrator that changes. So what we get is, first Lucia’s and then Luis’ view on what was, or is, happening. I’m going to focus on the latter, since it was projected at the festival as part of Latin American stop motion 1: Inside perspective.
In the first few seconds there is nothing but darkness. Then a voice appears. A gammy, hoarse voice, seeming to come from down below. It’s Luis' perfectly low pitched voice spoken by Paula Florencia Navarrete. Soon after, the protagonist’s world comes alive in front of us. Materials the artists used to create this morbidly beautiful scenery fit perfectly with the narrative – charcoal, dirt, flowers, found objects and cardboard.
As Luis is talking, there are a lot of things calling our attention towards the screen. We are now moving around what could be a living room, that seems to have just survived a horrific earthquake. While the objects are being cleaned and reorganised, room’s walls are turning into canvases for charcoal illustrations through which Luis presents himself to us.
The movements create an anxious atmosphere which is accompanied by fear we can hear coming from the main character’s voice. What we feel is a longing for its release. One’s need to free himself completely, to become an entity separate from what he’s feeling.
His way of speaking is indulged with emotions. The intensity and spectrum of his feelings increase as we’re moving along the narration. From seeming to be lonesomely naive, as a child would be at the beginning, we follow his fear-filled state of mind being pushed to the limit, right up to the violently whispered set of ending curse words that can be translated as a psychotic cry for help.
Even with all that has occurred, the viewer cannot help but see the innocent child that's hiding under an animal’s corpse and is in great need of a helping hand. There might be a visual cause of it.
We can split animation’s aesthetics into two segments:
1. The room, representing the here and now, the reality and the outsides of the protagonist
2. The drawings on the walls uncovering the protagonist’s insides
Coming out of his hiding place, he immediately starts organising the chaos he is surrounded by in his everyday life. He’s literally trying to put things in perspective by putting objects on places where they belong. Maybe that will help him make sense of the physical world he’s living in.
The charcoal illustrations show us his experience. They are his story, thoughts and feelings. The grey and white of the medium used indirectly show us his sadness, innocence, his yearning for love and, most of all, fear. These beautiful illustrations make us aware of the child’s vulnerability.
Fear, being one of the basic emotions found in humans and animals, is something we are collectively familiar with. It is our basic survival mechanism that has been following us throughout evolution. Not many emotions affect us as severely as fear does. When afraid we will make radical decisions, we will do just about anything to protect ourselves.
Even cover ourselves with wolf’s skin.
My initial thoughts while watching the film were: Oh, here comes another ghost story! But Luis is much more than that. He is a real boy with ghosts living inside of him, and that’s the magic of this animation. We all have ghosts, even demons, escorting us from within, and at times, influencing our actions. At the end of the day we have no choice but to clean our space in hopes that it will make everything bad and unwanted vanish into the darkness for good. For a brief moment in time, seeing the room in order gives us peace.
I strongly recommend watching Lucia. Her relation to the story gives another perspective on Luis and a whole lot of new things to think about.