The film starts with what looks like petals floating to the ground, tons of gray and black crashing, and then sprouts into a field of sharp stalks. Into this field enters a polygonal bearded man, who nervously makes his way through the atmospheric soundscape suggestive of a dream, or perhaps a nightmare.
The German word for “Catcher,” Faengar, is a new a short released by German filmmaker Fabien Koppenhöffer. In his directorial debut, Koppenhöffer developed a story based on J.D. Salinger’s iconic Catcher in the Rye, the classic novel of adolescent angst.
“It’s a bit inspired by the title,” he noted in a Skype interview with The Creators Project. “I read it 10 years ago in school, and I think and it’s a nice metaphor for getting old and all that stuff.”
Koppenhöffer developed the characters with Markus Färber, a colleague from the University of Art and Design in Kassel, Germany. “I didn’t want a very realistic look,” he said. “I wanted an abstract world. I just wanted really abstract, reduced, low poly look.”
Indeed, in early sketches we see the original old man character with his arms outstretched. His head is hunched, almost at the same level as his shoulders. The child creature, on the other hand, stands tall, though he only comes up to the old man’s knees. It’s this creature that evades the old man’s efforts, vanishing like an apparition.
Part of what makes Faengar successful is its rich sound environment, which complements the straightforward polygonal shapes and animation with a touch of hypnotic realism. For this project, Koppenhöffer relied on the terrific FreeSound.org for open sound files. With his music background, he edited them to exactly what he needed.
“I really knew what sounds I needed, and I arranged them in a totally new way,” he explained. Koppenhöffer worked briefly with two sound designers and also relied on his own skills. “I in put a lot of sounds and layered them over and over and just mixed them together. It was just really trial and error to just get the right mood.”
This is the second minimalist black-and-white animation I’ve reviewed now involving old age, and I wonder if there’s a trend brewing. In Mikey Please‘s The Eagleman Stag, an old, bearded man reflects back on his life with melancholy. It gets me wondering if technologists’ nonstop talk about the future has us imagining a time in our lives where we look back on today.
And perhaps in that future, the idea of a film festival will be a ghostly past we chase after in our old age. Despite being featured as a Vimeo staff pick and receiving almost 700 likes, Faengar has yet to see the inside of a traditional theater. “I decided not to go the normal festival way,” Koppenhöffer noted. “I want to spread it out right now.”
He promised that he and Färber will be releasing more making-of material in the near future, but in the mean time, check out some of Färber’s original sketches below…