Malcolm Sutherland’s “Umbra” confronts the emptiness

Malcolm Sutherland is my new hero. He’s a filmmaker, animator and illustrator based out of Montreal with scores of short films to his name. I’ve always been drawn to shorts.. films, stories, work days, and I’m continually fascinated by what you can convey within a limited amount of time. The question of How can I create something that last only moments yet lingers in someone’s mind is always running through my head. Sutherland’s Umbra achieves everything I want out of five and a half minutes of my time.. visual appeal, a proper soundtrack and a thought provoking story.

In an interview with Motionographer, he explains the concept behind his otherworldly exploration as this,

There is an idea in Buddhism which is that everything in existence is empty – this isn’t nihilistic, it just says that at the core everything is empty of a concrete, fixed, self; and the truth behind the form is that everything is transient and interconnected. For me contact with this “emptiness” can be both wonderfully liberating and a terrifying thing! So in my mind this is basically what the character in the film is confronting.

I’ve watched it a few times now and each time I feel my body tensing up when the character realizes he’s been transferred into another being, reliving a moment he’s already experienced. It hurts my brain to think about, but the good kind of hurt. The kind that means something is growing.


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Think or Smile | Nathaniel Whitcomb © 2010