Absence

Marc Hericher (FR)

A homeless man collapses violently on the ground and remains frozen on all fours. The journalists' sudden interest in this man takes us into a grotesque and absurd media vortex. 

Statement of intent 

This project was born out of my interest in the journalistic treatment of information, particularly on recurring subjects in our societies. In France, the term “marronnier journalistique” (evergreen content) is a news item that comes up every year at the same period. The media exploit these mundane news items to fill moments without interesting news. We often insist on their uninteresting character such as, for example, departures on vacation, Black Fridays, or the start of the school year. But the one that interests me is far from trivial: the homeless in winter, symptomatic of a society overwhelmed by the increase in class inequalities without ever understanding the causes. We are thus led to question the role of the media in our society: how to understand a problem that gets worse every year when it is only treated in a cyclical and superfluous way, focusing only on the symptoms? 

Technical note 

The device of the film is strange and destabilizing. Entirely in sequence shot and in slow motion, without dialogue, I worked on strong and understandable symbolism. The challenge of the film consists in remaining accessible while being in an experimental approach. 

The sequence shot 

I wanted to make a sequence shot to mark the seasonal continuity and the tension. (see link to a breakdown of the sequence-shot process: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dp035fmieRE)

 

The changes in the camera's angle of view, assumed as a subjective gaze, reflect the way in which our current society approaches the problem of homelessness. This moving point of view is like the finger of a rebellious child that shows us each element, again and again, as it is unable to shout. The uninterrupted movement of the camera is complex to set up, because in addition to the constraint imposed by the appearance of each character, it must remain very soft and airy, and reveal a range of scenes following one another as naturally as possible. It is also necessary to pay particular attention to the shadows cast by the characters who are located off-screen while waiting to enter the scene, as these could betray the process. To avoid too strong a feeling of dizziness, the left/right, up/down and forward/backward movements have been reduced as much as possible. 

The material 

I decided to work on a very expressionist aesthetic using only two materials. The first, which is a very pronounced organic pattern that scarifies bodies, clothes and volumes, between realism and monstrosity. Second, water in all its states (liquid, vapor, ice) to mark the seasons. Via this stylization of reality, I could highlight the volumes of these living sculptures and thus highlight the gestures, situations and expressions. If the situations seem naturalistic, it seems to me interesting to give the atmosphere of the film a strange character. Like a fantastic film that nevertheless speaks of reality. 

Characters 

Absence presents a large number of characters (50 humans + 5 animals), and therefore requires a long organic modeling work. The technique used is the digital sculpture process which consists of sculpting our characters using a graphics tablet. 

 

From a basic model, we create 5 variations, man / woman / child, which will serve as a starting point for all the characters in the film. Then comes the 3D sculpting stage, which consists of directly sculpting a model using a graphics tablet. It is the most suitable modeling method for creating characters, animals, and other organic subjects.

A homeless man collapses violently on the ground and remains frozen on all fours. The journalists' sudden interest in this man takes us into a grotesque and absurd media vortex. 

Statement of intent 

This project was born out of my interest in the journalistic treatment of information, particularly on recurring subjects in our societies. In France, the term “marronnier journalistique” (evergreen content) is a news item that comes up every year at the same period. The media exploit these mundane news items to fill moments without interesting news. We often insist on their uninteresting character such as, for example, departures on vacation, Black Fridays, or the start of the school year. But the one that interests me is far from trivial: the homeless in winter, symptomatic of a society overwhelmed by the increase in class inequalities without ever understanding the causes. We are thus led to question the role of the media in our society: how to understand a problem that gets worse every year when it is only treated in a cyclical and superfluous way, focusing only on the symptoms? 

Technical note 

The device of the film is strange and destabilizing. Entirely in sequence shot and in slow motion, without dialogue, I worked on strong and understandable symbolism. The challenge of the film consists in remaining accessible while being in an experimental approach. 

The sequence shot 

I wanted to make a sequence shot to mark the seasonal continuity and the tension. (see link to a breakdown of the sequence-shot process: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dp035fmieRE)

 

The changes in the camera's angle of view, assumed as a subjective gaze, reflect the way in which our current society approaches the problem of homelessness. This moving point of view is like the finger of a rebellious child that shows us each element, again and again, as it is unable to shout. The uninterrupted movement of the camera is complex to set up, because in addition to the constraint imposed by the appearance of each character, it must remain very soft and airy, and reveal a range of scenes following one another as naturally as possible. It is also necessary to pay particular attention to the shadows cast by the characters who are located off-screen while waiting to enter the scene, as these could betray the process. To avoid too strong a feeling of dizziness, the left/right, up/down and forward/backward movements have been reduced as much as possible. 

The material 

I decided to work on a very expressionist aesthetic using only two materials. The first, which is a very pronounced organic pattern that scarifies bodies, clothes and volumes, between realism and monstrosity. Second, water in all its states (liquid, vapor, ice) to mark the seasons. Via this stylization of reality, I could highlight the volumes of these living sculptures and thus highlight the gestures, situations and expressions. If the situations seem naturalistic, it seems to me interesting to give the atmosphere of the film a strange character. Like a fantastic film that nevertheless speaks of reality. 

Characters 

Absence presents a large number of characters (50 humans + 5 animals), and therefore requires a long organic modeling work. The technique used is the digital sculpture process which consists of sculpting our characters using a graphics tablet. 

 

From a basic model, we create 5 variations, man / woman / child, which will serve as a starting point for all the characters in the film. Then comes the 3D sculpting stage, which consists of directly sculpting a model using a graphics tablet. It is the most suitable modeling method for creating characters, animals, and other organic subjects.

marc-hericher.com/project/absence/
www.youtube.com/watch?v=dp035fmieRE

Director, script: Marc Hericher  

Animation: Florian Durand, Thomas Salas, Daniela Metheyer, Marc Hericher  

Sound, music: Eric Cervera

Marc Hericher (FR) studied illustration and Fine Arts, and then animation at the Parisian ENSAD art school, with a marked taste for storytelling and video art. Since 2006, he works as an independent director or motion designer in the production of music videos, institutional films, documentaries, and personal films. Among his works, he directed the special effects of the feature film My Angel by Harry Cleven and an abstract video installation in a store in London. His films Corpus and Ollo have received many awards at festivals. Filmography: 25/75 (2006, 3'), La Théorie des ensembles (2007, 4'), Ollo (2008, 15'), Create Your Own World (2014, 1'12), Corpus (2015, 3'30), Automaphone (art vidéo, 2016, 1'37).

Marc Hericher (FR) studied illustration and Fine Arts, and then animation at the Parisian ENSAD art school, with a marked taste for storytelling and video art. Since 2006, he works as an independent director or motion designer in the production of music videos, institutional films, documentaries, and personal films. Among his works, he directed the special effects of the feature film My Angel by Harry Cleven and an abstract video installation in a store in London. His films Corpus and Ollo have received many awards at festivals. Filmography: 25/75 (2006, 3'), La Théorie des ensembles (2007, 4'), Ollo (2008, 15'), Create Your Own World (2014, 1'12), Corpus (2015, 3'30), Automaphone (art vidéo, 2016, 1'37).