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#TIFF19 Review: The Physics of Sorrow (Short Cuts)

September 3, 2019

By John Corrado

★★★★ (out of 4)

Narrated by Rossif Sutherland, The Physics of Sorrow is an animated short film that finds an unnamed immigrant reflecting upon his memories of first falling in love as a boy with a girl from the circus, his abusive father, his time in the army in communist Bulgaria, and his restless life after moving to Quebec and having his own family.

Directed by Bulgarian-Canadian filmmaker Theodore Ushev, whose 2016 film Blind Vaysha received an Oscar nomination for Best Animated Short, The Physics of Sorrow is a unique, ambitious and moving work that is visually stunning to watch. The film was animated through a technique known as encaustic painting, which involves painting with pigments that have been dissolved in beeswax so that the image can then be reheated and redrawn. It’s the first film to be completed entirely through this process, and the final result resembles a living, breathing painting, as the images and characters keep blending and morphing into each other.

Offering a brilliant symphony of images, sounds and music, The Physics of Sorrow is first and foremost a remarkable artistic achievement, taking us through a haunting landscape of memory and fantasy that beautifully captures the melancholic feeling of life passing by as you try to find yourself. At just 27 minutes long, the film manages to tell a sweeping, personal story of first loves, childhood neglect, and the passage of time that feels epic in scope, backed up by Sutherland’s highly emotive voiceover. There are narrative through lines involving time capsules and ancient mythology that give a metaphysical quality to the film, and the constantly shifting images match the nostalgic feel of the story.

Public Screenings (Short Cuts Programme 03)

Saturday, September 7th – 7:00 PM at Scotiabank Theatre

Friday, September 13th – 5:45 M at Scotiabank Theatre

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