I went into Symphony No. 42 not knowing what it would be like. Watching it without any aforementioned synopsis or detail was an especially surprising experience. I highly suggest you do the same.
But if you want to know more, read on.
Réka Bucsi got me all kinds of excited as the film opened with her colorful 2D storybook style. It felt like I was going to watch a cartoon from my childhood or a heartwarming animated short.
I was completely wrong.
Described as “exploring the relationship between humans and nature,” Symphony No. 42 is an animated short not in the vein of South Park, Happy Tree Friends, or even Ren & Stimpy, but something much more pensive and edgy. Between every shot there is a hint of narrative that teases the viewer into wondering if all the vignettes could be intertwined, or if that’s something we’re imagining. Though the scenes seem nonsensical, every detail in every sequence is deliberate and complex. After my second viewing, I started to notice that the vignettes follow a very loose formula: one part nature, one part human, one part animal and one part surreal.
Busci paces the film brilliantly. It starts slowly, then builds momentum through cuts and clever sound design. The animation is simple, graphic, familiar and pleasant, though the content isn’t. Though it’s violent, there is a lack of blood. Slightly anthropomorphic foxes commit suicide, llamas wearing cat masks ride bikes, and someone resembling Margot Tenenbaum cries with a monkey. I can’t keep describing the visuals in this film without giving away the best parts, and it doesn’t do it any justice.
I can only describe Symphony No. 42 as the conundrum that it is: modern and satirical, but also classic and familiar. In its less-than-ten-minute run time, it packs social commentary and visual delights in a colorful yet dark short film.