Animator Frank E. Abney III’s Canvas is a short film emphasizing on the importance of ‘bouncing back in life after a tragedy’. Trauma and tragedy have its own ways of shaping our lives and Canvas is a story about one such man who used to be a painter but a recent tragedy led to him losing his inspiration and wish to paint. This short film also shows the link between trauma and tragedy to art and artwork. The artist then birthed from trauma and tragedy tends to express his feelings through his artwork. It can be dance, music, poetry or, as in this movie, it is painting.
Canvas begins with the old man dreaming about painting an old lady sitting under a tree. The old man seems to be at bliss while painting the old lady which gives away the fact that the old lady might be his wife and is also the muse for his paintings. Or should we say was…
The man’s daughter and granddaughter often visit him and seeing the way he greets his granddaughter, you could say that they share a strong and special bond. The granddaughter also likes to draw and paint like his grandfather.
As the story progresses, you see that the old man spends days by his easel looking into nowhere and then suddenly, one fine day, he pushes the easel and it falls. This particular scene is something every geriatric would relate to as it shows resentment to stagnation and lifelessness in his life.
The critical part of Canvas comes when the granddaughter finds a secret room behind her grandfather’s wardrobe. Going inside, she finds the painting of the old woman sitting under a tree which was first seen when the movie began. When the old man discovers his granddaughter inside that room, at first he’s angry. But the moment he takes the painting from her, he transients into a world of imagination on the canvas where he sees his wife descend from heaven to see him. Those few moments of the man with his wife are quite a game-changer in the movie. This particular scene was earlier hinted at in a drawing that the granddaughter had made.
The movie ends with the man with his painting brush, reluctant to start painting again, but this time, his granddaughter acts as the muse, or rather, an inspiration for him to start painting all over again. This scene also shows how a geriatric set out of stagnation and lifelessness to rediscover life again through his form of art.
The animation cuts from normal CGI to animation on a canvas twice. Once, at the beginning of the movie, and a second time when they show moments of the old man with his wife. This lays out a sharp contrast to the film’s tone – like a person living a dream and then snapping back into reality. But the only symbolism of constant is the easel which has been there supporting the man’s canvas of life through thick and thin.
The makers of Toy Story, Frozen and Coco have wrapped up this emotional movie with a message of grief, mourning and finding inspiration to do what you love most, all in eight minutes. It is absolutely worth the watch.
Canvas is currently streaming on Netflix.
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