Film Critique: Descendants (Animated Short Film)

“The most beautiful things are often the most dangerous.”

Descendants is a short animated film written by Heiko van der Scherm, a vibrant visualization that took a total of three years to make. The world created is hauntingly beautiful and accompanied by dramatic, goose-bump inducing music. It is the story of two plants, a wish, and the inherent evil and goodness that can exist in nature.

There was something unusual about the design used when creating these plants with human faces, an even further step than most movies and short films make involving the world beneath our feet. Even though we are not seeing an actor’s face, the close-up shots used still convey deep emotions, something that is important when your main characters are plants. The character design is unique; I don’t feel like I have seen these characters before and that they are their own entity. They are also fully developed, something I wouldn’t have expected from a 15-minute film. Their emotions and actions are extremely realistic and it’s easy to forget that they are simply animated characters.

The short film has similar camera movements of that of a feature length movie, helping give an authenticity to the film. The viewer enters the world with a long, sweeping fluid master shot before beginning the journey. There are close-ups to the characters and a smooth tilt shot helps transition a scene from day to night. These different angles help immerse the viewer into a ground-level world. Due to the nature of the film, where the majority of the plot is driven by the two characters talking, the animation and editing was extremely important to keep it interesting. The music of the film helped generate the mood as well, helping pull the story along and accompany the scenes, adding a

The color palette of the film reminds me of movies such as Lord of the Rings and Snow White and the Huntsman – strong, vivid colors that are like an enhanced version of the world we live in now. Similarly, it reminds me of the animated movie, How to Train Your Dragon. On that movie, the film crew hired a director of photography, even though it was animated, in order to ensure that there was a realistic feel to the film’s styling and coloring and avoiding the cartoon-like bright colors of most animated movies. While I don’t know the process of making the film Descendants, I feel like there might have been a similar process to help create such an authentic and real world.

I would absolutely recommend this film to anyone who was interested. The story line is original and intriguing, unexpectedly drawing the viewer in. It’s a beautiful piece of animation. But most of all this, it’s a powerful film that has more to it than just animation and short film. There are deeper meanings within the story and complex relationships. I at one point had to stop the film to catch my breath and take everything in. I’ve never been so mesmerized by an animated film, or even movie, as much as I was with this one. It is truly art.