In short, Europe: assessment of Happy Together – a union driven by humor | Movie
IIn the aftermath of Brexit, there is a provocative note in the overall theme – Happy Together – of this year’s survey of European short films, presented by EUNIC London, an umbrella organization for EU cultural institutions, and convened by London-based Commissioner Shira MacLeod. But, as they say, it’s complicated: the “happiness”, as displayed in many of these 19 shorts, is somewhat ironic; humor long held the common currency in confusing it through a bundle of dissatisfaction, blame and misunderstanding.
In Whispering by Barnabás Tóth, two Hungarian translators make an improbable talk about the Euro-sustainability waffle that they must analyze to find an attractive client. The storyline walks a fine line alongside creepy sexual harassment – before these cunning linguists manage to show up.
Personal lives tragicomically struggling in the shadow of politics have been a hallmark of Romania’s New Wave, and The Christmas Gift’s hilarious premise suggests that director Bogdan Mureşanu could be another future star of that movement. After hearing his father insult Ceauşescu, a seven year old child publishes a letter to Santa Claus saying that his parents’ gift should be the death of “Uncle Nick”. “He’s not a child, we raised a snitch,” shouts the panicked father. Meanwhile, Swimmer is a Mexican – or rather Swedish – face to face in a municipal swimming pool as two police officers attempt to extract a lawbreaker twists Muzak’s unmoved magic, as director Jonatan Etzler floats a cheeky meditation on the boundaries between public and private space.
There are more solemn entries: Vanessa Del Campo’s Mars, Oman, shot with photojournalistic rigor, fruitfully collages of Bedouin, astronaut-in-training and aspiring Arab scientists, as golden-haired youth roll through the gentrification of Porto in Leonor Teles’ dogs barking to birds, made with Claire Souplesse à la Denis.
But the two stars choose to play it light: candy-colored Czech animation Sh_t Happens, by Michaela Mihályi and Dávid Štumpf, is a three-part story about a janitor in a building full of animals, which has a Robert Une crumbs and a punchy sound design. And the hills come alive with screams, trills and howls in Hannes Lang’s RIAFN, an initially picturesque montage of Tyrolean shepherds’ calls that transform into something as pure and invigorating as a mountain stream. At this altitude, European humor has left everyday worries far below.