I recently found an animation that has quite a similar idea to my idea for my graduation film: being physically in one place and mentally in another. It’s both good and bad to find this because whereas it does make one feel less original, it is nice to see that this storyline can be told successfully through animation (in 5 minutes as well) and now there is some type of reference to have. Yey!
This film is Cafe Bar by Alison De Vere. I tried to deconstruct it a bit to see if there was some wisdom I could pull from it. I will write as I rewatch it now and write some notes simultaneously (thank you split screen). And…go!
(spoilers included) Beginning: It begins from outside the cafe bar and then enters inside, setting the scene. One female character is in the scene already, we see the second male character enter. We can sense a bit of his character even before he sits down based on how he takes off his coat and hat. We see the female change before the male comes and sits down. We hear the sound of the cafe around them. She begins to talk and we hear gibberish.. lots of good character animation, we see her character instantly.
Middle: It fades and the male character turns into someone flying off in a plane, the surrealism begins. We see the lady left at the table. It focuses on the male, the female ducks at the male flies overhead so there is some interaction between his mental landscape and the reality inside the cafe (ex. the female puts on a hat so he can land on it).
Sound: The sound is no longer of the cafe (which it was up to this point) but of the man in the plane and the jungle he finds himself in. It shifts between him in the jungle and him interacting with the lady back at the table but as a small man in a plane or skiing and he is only as big as a thumb. The sound remains the sounds of his mental landscape. Briefly, it shifts to showing them both at the table, him reading a newspaper and her looking perturbed, with the sound of the cafe around them. Then, it switches to inside her mind. (Note: The only time the sound goes back to reality is when it switches the character.)
Second half: He fades back and she is in some type of desert. The landscape is acting as her mental landscape. He hears her screaming from her mental landscape in his reality of the cafe and it fades to his mental landscape. Both their mental landscapes interact, it fades back to the scene in the cafe.
Conclusion: He puts his monster hat on the hat rack, she takes her mask off, and they get back to their time at the cafe. We can hear the accordionist outside.
What I got from this was how to shift seamlessly between two worlds, both in visuals and in sound, as well as showing the characters traits traditionally through how they act before symbolising them surreally. That way, the audience is sure to be with you when it gets a bit more complex. Also, the two worlds can merge a bit and someone’s mental state landscape can interact with the reality happening in the scene.
The ending is a bit different from my idea but it matches what Steve suggested: making the two mental worlds merge. I am not sure that is in line with what I want to say but it is interesting to see someone do that and does give the viewer a sense of completion. Hmm.
Two more interesting films I found were the absolutely ridiculous Going to the Store by David Lewandowski:
and the absolutely beautiful The Man Who Planted Trees by Frédéric Back: