Breakfast with Winter in the Rainforest
Interview with Anu-Laura Tuttelberg, director of Winter in the Rainforest
Can you explain the title to us?
Winter in The Rainforest started on my first trips to the Amazon rainforest in Brazil and a rainforest in the Sierra Gorda mountains in Mexico. I got the idea to shoot a stop-motion film in the tropical nature. I come from Estonia, a Nordic country with a nature and a climate that are very different to what I experienced in the tropics. I wanted to make a film that would unite those different experiences and show the circle of life in the nature by transformations from one season to another. My initial idea was to make one short film that would contain all the seasons of nature – a lush summer in the tropical forest, and a snowy and cold winter as a contrast. Later, my idea evolved into making separate short films, each one depicting a different season in different natural environment. Winter in the Rainforest is the first film of those and shows the overwhelming and inevitable chain of hunting and being hunted in nature during the vivid summer season. The next film will be about autumn and the beginning of winter, and it will be shot on a seaside with snow in Estonia and Norway. Looking from the Northerners’ perspective, all the birds migrate to the warm lands for the winter, and Winter in the Rainforest shows what happens where these birds go while we have winter in our homeland.
What did you seek to explore through this choreography? What happened to the trapped girl?
Winter in the Rainforest is a nature documentary of porcelain creatures. These porcelain animals, just like real animals, hunt for food and set traps for other animals to feed from them. And others get eaten. It is the inevitable circle of life in nature. You are right about calling it a choreography. I wanted to create a lively rhythmic sequence of actions where all the creatures follow their own path, their own wishes and desires. All these actions come together and form a dance of life. The girl gets trapped but appears again from the spider’s cocoon and luckily, instead of being eaten by the spider, the girl is saved when a carnivorous plant catches the spider. The girl is also accompanied by the little white bird who watches over her and sings when it sees her. For people in the North, birds always bring good luck and happiness because they are the ones who bring us spring back when they return from the South after spending the winter there.
Tell us more about your animation style. How did you incorporate the figurines within this natural landscape?
I like to work with the stop-motion technique. My only problem with this technique is that usually a stop-motion film is shot in a studio, a space that is dark and where everything can be controlled. And the goal is to cheat the viewer’s eye to see a smooth movement of animation which is close to realism and at the same time hide the gaps in time that are needed for capturing the frame-by-frame animation. I made two stop-motion films before this one. I shot the first one (Fly Mill) in a classical stop-motion technique in a studio. But it took me two years and I discovered that I really love stop motion but I don’t want to work in a dark studio space without sunlight for the rest of my life. This is why for my second film (On the Other Side of the Woods) I used natural light for shooting the film. I worked in a studio space with big windows and used the sunlight from the windows for lighting the film. That way, throughout the film, the audience is aware of the stop-motion technique and the world that I create has its own fast-moving light and time like a second reality. My next step was to move my studio outdoors and go to shoot my film in the jungle in Mexico. Shooting a stop-motion film in nature creates a strange perception of time. The porcelain creatures move smoothly and calmly in their own tempo and at the same time, the light is flickering and the nature in the background is shaky and in hectic movement. The viewer can be deceived by the ceramic animals being brought to life and at the same time be aware of the passing of time in the stop-motion film. The gaps of time that are needed for creating the animated movement are not hidden. You can see how hours and days pass within short seconds in the animated film.
Can you tell us more about the soundtrack?
The music in this film is very important and I started working with the composer from the very start of developing the idea for the film. The composer Maarja Nuut is a young and very talented Estonian musician. She works with Estonian traditional music, transforming it into her own unique style. In order to incorporate the music and the visual of the film, I asked her for a short piece of music before I went to shoot the film in the rainforest. I tried to animate the film to fit the rhythm of the music. After everything was shot, I took the edited film back to the composer and she created a new piece that would fit the film. The sound was made by a young Lithuanian sound designer, Olga Bulygo. I gave her a hard task to create a sound for this crazy and overwhelming nature. The tropical forest is insane – it is noisy, messy, chaotic, intense. I wanted all that to be in the film. The rainforest is not a comfortable place for a normal city person. You have to relax in all that chaos to start to accept and enjoy it. I am very happy with the sound and music of the film.
Are there any genres, themes or styles of animation you’d like to explore in the future?
I have no plans for what will come next. At the moment I am still working on the same project and will make two more short stop-motion films with the porcelain creatures in nature. Those films will all together form a whole year of different seasons and create a circle of the year. With these films, I want to show that nature is a friendly and comfortable place, and I hope that people will come closer to nature again and won’t be scared of it. We are all very closely connected and dependent on nature and the environment around us and I hope people will find that connection again. In the future, I will continue with the themes that are close to me – fairy tales and nature. But in what shapes or forms I don’t know. That will be a surprise to myself as well! This is what is inspiring in art – searching for new inspiring materials, shapes and forms that will start to tell a story.
Are there any works of art or films that have inspired you?
Oh yes, of course, many many. Among stop-motion films, my long-time favourites are Jan Svankmayer’s films, especially Alice, Jabberwocky, Mati Kütt’s films like The Underground, Piotr Kamler’s Chronopolis etc.
Winter in the Rainforest is part of International Competition I7.