Last bank holiday Monday the Nottingham Alternative Film Network screened NAFN Comedy Night, its first collection of comedy short films. At this event the audience was then invited to vote for its favourite, and the winner won the profits from the night. Within this the network had placed great emphasis on celebrating animation, including unusual, cutting-edge shorts like What I Forgot To Say (dir. Patrick Buhr, Germany, 2014). This wasn’t one of those animations that is simply cute or beautiful. Instead it was clever, challenging, and refreshingly funny.
What I Forgot To Say opens somewhat unassumingly with a screen full of colourful, dancing fronds – or “abstract stuff” as the short’s whispering, accented voice-over wryly labels it. And accompanying these softly is a sort of ethereal, tranquil, mood-enhancing music. Together with the short’s drawing style and colour-schemes, these features unite deliciously to achieve a sort of ironic take on the now ubiquitous and iconic Apple aesthetic. In fact an onscreen representation of a minimised Mac window does even come flying into view, like a screen within a screen.
So Buhr manages to send up this world of trendy well-being, feng-shui clap-trap wonderfully. But with the introduction of a computer screen, What I Forgot To Say equally takes on something of the “desktop documentary,” a fictionalised frame which allows the narrator to navigate widely between topics. (And of course, viewers should never accept narrative vagrancy without the introduction of a sufficiently plausible wifi subplot)! But the lovely, flowingly rhythmic voice-over does manage to seamlessly keep time with the musical and visual content too, so you become hopelessly hypnotised by its wistful ramblings.
That is, of course, until What I Forgot To Say’s “intermissions” comically come out of nowhere. In a dulcet, informative, female British accent, these sections fling us briefly into a world of random, yet insightfully humorous facts. But slowly and inevitably, we return (almost confused) to the interrupted, engrossing thoughts of the narrating whisperer again. And by creating this spasmodic, vacillating structure, Buhr has really rather wittily captured something of the relentless “just browsing” experience of modern existence.
All sorts of sudden, alternative flashes of humour and the essential flourishes of modern online cat culture flood into What I Forgot To Say as a result. And yes, this layering of follies one over another does become intensely, overwhelmingly dizzying. But thankfully it cheers us in a way that is really very human too. So if NAFN screen it again, you should definitely come!
Oh. And I forgot to mention is that the whole nine minutes of What I Forgot To Say is actually about explaining what the shady, observant figure of the flâneur is. Probably should have mentioned that…