To put it simply, La Maison en Petits Cubes is a gorgeous little piece of work. You’d think with a mere twelve minutes to tell its story, it would barely be able to establish its premise and characters, never mind create any emotional impact. And yet, not only does it do that, it does it better than any short film I have ever seen. This film doesn’t waste one second of its story, not one frame of animation is wasted and not one perfectly placed piece of music is wasted.
The art and animation could not be more fitting. The muted colour palette, the pencil drawings and subtle details make the movements and backgrounds of the film almost seem like a living picture book. Also, the way it’s framed and angles it gets when showing some of the flashbacks create a beautiful mood.
The music is gorgeous. Just on itself, it’s emotional, but when played in the right places at the right time, just make the melancholy mood of the story seem that much more identifiable. The music pretty much becomes the story, since there is no dialogue. And that is just fine. The music says all that needs to be said.
The story seems simple on the surface. An old man lives in a strange world where the water level keeps rising. As such, when it gets too high, he has to build another floor to his house and move up there, therefore his house keeps getting higher and higher. One day, he accidentally drops his old smoking pipe down a trap door in the floor of his house. As such, he rents a scuba suit and dives in after it. As he does so, he travels through the floors of his house and remembers all his old memories.
Again, on the surface, a simple story. But the way it’s portrayed and the way it’s presented to us makes it so much more meaningful than it sounds. The old man never says a word and yet, not only do you completely understand him, you also see your own self in him. You see all the times where things have just disappeared before you and you realise that those beautiful times will eventually fade away also, with no one but you to remember them. But then you see that some things are there to be remembered. All the little moments, all the big moments, all the travels right back to your childhood.
The old man in the story has had a fairly uneventful life from an outsider’s perspective. He has fell in love, he has had a family, he has had a loving wife. But that’s the power of it. Because, to an outsider, that doesn’t seem that eventful. But, to him, that was all the beautiful times. The time he had with his wife, his family, all of it was a wonderful experience that faded away from him. But, as both he and we as the audience realise, some beautiful things are meant to be remembered.
Despite winning an Oscar and rightly so, I feel bad that this little gem is not more appreciated. The love, nostalgia, heartbreak and simple beautiful storytelling make this a story that deserves to be seen more than it is. I know I’ve been using the word ‘beautiful’ a lot throughout this review… but I honestly can’t think of a more fitting description. If you haven’t seen it, make a note. It’s twelve minutes of your time you won’t regret.