By Anuva Kulkarni:
Think you’re too old for animated films? Well, think again. Le Maison en Petits Cubes is a is a 2008 Japanese animated short subject film created by Kunio KatÅ, and it moved me to tears. The name translates to “The House of Small Cubes“, and the film is a winner of several awards, most notable being the Grand prize for short films (the Annecy Cristal) at the Annecy International Animated Film Festival in 2008 and the Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film in 2009.
It begins with a strange setting — a house in the middle of the ocean, with boats sailing around it and gulls flying above. The little house rises out of the water, but only just about. A widowed old man lives there, all alone, with his pipe and a few odd belongings. The one-room house has a trapdoor in its floor, which can be opened when the old man wants to catch some fish for dinner (Keep this trapdoor in mind, its important!)
One morning, he wakes up to find the house flooded — the sea level has gone up. So he sets himself to work building a floor atop the roof, a new room, where he can move in once the one below gets submerged. He builds a little cubical room but loses his pipe when it falls through the trapdoor and into the depths of the water. Loath to buying a new pipe, the man buys a diving suit and into the water he goes, in search of the beloved pipe.
As he goes onto the lower floor, we see a room similar to the one that was flooded so recently. That room too, has a trapdoor, and a few broken pieces of furniture. The old man looks around and memories flash before his eyes — memories of his wife, and their quiet life together. He goes lower and lower into the house, which is a tottering tower of cubical rooms identical to the one he has just built. As he reaches the bottom, we see that there’s a whole city under the water — the houses have been abandoned long ago.
But the old man didn’t give up as the water kept rising; he kept building, and now, when he revisits the cubical rooms, his whole life is played before his eyes in the reverse — and the emotions you see in his face truly touch your heart.
I won’t give anymore away, but I would urge you to watch this wonderful film. It’s amazing how minimalistic animation can make you feel so many complicated emotions felt by the old man himself, looking back on life as he nears its end. This story about a house of memories teaches you the most important lesson of all — that no matter what happens, we must keep moving forward. Memories stay, locked up in some corner of our mind, and it is there that we are with the people we miss and wish had been with us. But life goes on, and forward is the only way to go.
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