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Short of the Week: Georges Schwizgebel's unique animated film 'The Man with No Shadow'

The Man with No Shadow

Swiss filmmaker Georges Schwizgebel is primarily known for his unique use of paint-on-glass animation, evident in his award-winning 2004 short The Man with No Shadow. Born in 1944, Schwizgebel studied at the École des Beaux-Arts et des Arts Décoratifs and eventually founded his own studio. Over the years, he has produced several acclaimed animated films but none have surpassed the artistic vision and philosophical grandeur of The Man with No Shadow.

Based on Adelbert von Chamisso’s novella, Schwizgebel masterfully creates a landscape of geometric disorientation which is a commentary on the destabilisation of morality in its narrative. It tells the story of a man who chooses to be a sell-out in order to gain access to luxury and material excesses. However, The Man with No Shadow ends up becoming a cautionary tale of an individual who subjects his own identity to self-mutilation.

In an interview, the director once explained his approach to the conceptualisation of his animation: “I try to imagine a different point of view and make key drawings and in-betweens,” he said, adding: “I change them as I need in order to fix them. If it looks true, it’s enough. I try to keep the perspective accurate, but sometimes even if it’s wrong, the drawing still works.”

He continued: “I saw Lucy In the Sky With Diamonds (when it came out) and at that time used rotoscope. But not in many years. There are limitations with it. If it looks like live action, I feel very uncomfortable with it. It’s very flat. To use rotoscoping is seductive because the motions are perfect, but the limitation is (what is possible with) live action. I feel more comfortable to imagine movement in space; maybe (it’s) not perfect but (it’s) more unexpected, more personal.”

Watch Georges Schwizgebel’s unique animated short from 2004 – The Man with No Shadow below: