Away (2020)

Written for RAF News Jan 2021

Created in its entirety by one person, Away is an animated feature that follows a young boy as he crash lands on an exotic island, chased through a dreamlike oasis by a giant creature.

Away review – Latvian animation reaches Ghibli heights

Gints Zilbalodis has the sole credit on the film, a 26 year old Latvian prodigy with no formal training in animation, working with little to no budget. Writing and directing as well as providing the score, which is pivotal in imparting the tone and sense of unfolding wonder, he put together this minimal but dazzling film over the course of three years.

The story is simple, and unfolds more as a series of obstacles, as the young boy finds ways to evade this ominous dark spirit and push onward. The pace is gentle, working with the score to put you in a sort of trance, allowing you to experience the scale and spectacle despite the style of animation. Made without dialogue, it is the combination of music and sound design that plunges you into the world, finding moments of reflection in the boys’ interactions with different animals.

The visuals can be quite crude, like a video game from decades past, notable particularly in rigid, unnatural movement. In some places though, the ripple of a waterfall, or licking flames from a fire, there is an elegance to be found in its abstract simplicity. For the most part though it’s hard to look past the style, even whilst appreciating it, I felt unable to forget about its presentation.

It is some feat then, that with this reminder at the forefront of the experience, you are still able to be transported and care about the boy or the the small bird that he befriends along the way. Considering its humble beginnings, this is a remarkable achievement.

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