Film-Fest Preview: Tragic Story with a Happy Ending

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Tragic Story with Happy Ending is an animated short from Portuguese filmmaker Regina Pessoa. The story centers on a girl who doesn't fit into her small home town--tragically, she was born with a heart two sizes too small. Despite its outward similarities to a certain holiday favourite, the girl really does have the heart of a bird. So small that it beats very fast, and noticibly louder than an ordinary heart. It's so loud that everyone in town hears it all day and all night and it begins to drive them understandably insane. The film's soundtrack serves to symbolize her heartbeat continually growing louder, eventually reaching a cacophony as her heartbeats echo off the houses in town, waking everyone up. The girl's emotions are reflected in the soundtrack and help the audience feel her sadness and fear of not being accepted.

The film is animated entirely in black and white, resembling sketches on a pad of paper. Forms and shading shift slightly from frame to frame and the world never feels completely solid. Perspective is distorted so buildings tower over the town and the inhabitants lean towards the girl with accusing stares. Strong shadows, sharp lines and angles dominate the world, creating a hostile, foreign aesthetic.

Narration is handled in a style reminiscent of a teacher reading a children's book to her students. Instead of feeling patronizing, though, it helps create empathy for the unfortunate girl. The film explores the often contrasting themes of difference and acceptance and it raises the question of whether it's possible for someone to embrace their uniqueness without ostracizing themselves from their community.