19th Jul2019

Fantasia 2019: ‘Away’ Review

by Alain Elliott

Starring, Written and Directed by Gints Zilbalodis


An dialogue-free seventy five minute animated movie entirely created by one guy from Latvia might not seem like the outline for any film to get made, let alone watch. But that is the exact description of Away and it is a fascinating piece of work.

The directors story is an interesting one in itself. At only 25 he had made seven short films before Away, six of them in animation. He then spent three and a half years, pretty much seven days a week, creating his first full feature. After winning several awards it is now touring the world across festivals and will hopefully get some kind of wide release.

But back to the movie. We first meet a boy, who has found himself in a strange world, and with the help of his only ‘friend’ – a small bird – to help him get home. Over four chapters we see them pass through different landscapes while always being followed by a mysterious, dark and ominous-looking figure. Luckily for the boy he finds a bag with water, a compass, a blanket, a map and a few other things to help him along the way.

What the creator/writer/director, Gints Zilbalodis, does best is create this amazing and wonderful atmosphere from what, at a quick glance, looks like very basic animation. The animation style reminded me of the old Broken Sword games, and like them video games, it manages to still look great. In fact, Away looks better than great, at times it creates some truly breathtaking images. Several of these images come when the camera pans away and we see these gorgeous long shots, one of a giant old and rickety wooden bridge that seems to never end, while another sees our main character surrounded by giant green plants. More picturesque scenes include thousands of birds flying high over head and these fantastic mirrored images from the sky above and a watery surface on land, looking particularly great when the boy is driving along on a motorcycle. All of this is in bright and vibrant colours.

Away really is one of the most beautiful movies I have seen in a long time.

Alongside the animation, is the musical score. The other element that creates this atmosphere that is rarely felt in a film. The original score is gorgeous sounding, becoming epic in the most tense and heart-in-mouth moments and graceful when the story becomes quieter and slow-paced. It’s a fantastic score that I could listen to endlessly and it produces this completely mesmerizing sound. At times you will almost feel like you are in some kind of happy daze while watching Away.

Having no dialogue does not hamper the movie one little bit. It’s simply not needed. The character is on their own anyway and realistically wouldn’t exactly be saying a lot in this situation. The visuals and the music are more than enough to produce this atmospheric story.

Away is a perfectly paced and stunningly beautiful movie that continuously takes your breath away. Zilbalodis will surely go on to very big things, Away is a phenomenal debut feature.

**** 4/5

Away screened at this years Fantasia International Film Festival on July 13th & 15th 2019.


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