How Jonathan Laskar’s The Record deals with trauma

“The Record” was selected as a finalist in this year’s ShortList Film Festival, presented by TheWrap. You can watch the movies and vote for your favorite here.

A mysterious man walks into a vintage musical instrument store and hands the owner a vinyl record. The shopkeeper puts it on the record player and the sound of Peruvian flutes comes out. The man then picks up the needle and drops it in the same spot. This time Ikembe’s melodies flow. The visitor picks up and drops the needle over and over again, and each time the record plays different music. “Yes,” he tells the stunned owner. “It’s a magical record. read your soul Play everything you’ve forgotten.”

Thus begins “The Record”, the 2D animated short by Jonathan Laskar that has collected more than a dozen awards on the festival circuit (including the Annecy Animation Festival) and is a finalist in TheWrap’s ShortList Film Festival 2023. More At eight and a half hypnotic minutes, the record goes round and round as the shop owner travels through the time machine of his memories. Here he is like a kid alone on a train, scared that a German guard will check identities. Here is a Star of David sewn onto a piece of clothing. Everything is set in beautiful, high-contrast black and white, the shadows sometimes coming and going in time with the pops and clicks of the vinyl.

“The basic idea behind the magical vinyl came from reading a famous [Jorge Luis] Borges’ short story, ‘The Book of Sand’ and the Infinite Book,” Laskar said during a recent Zoom call from his home in Geneva. “It was the idea of ​​making infinite music.”

Laskar began drawing and writing “The Record”, his first feature film, during the 2020 covid lockdown. Initially, he planned to use existing music as the soundtrack for the merchant’s journey. But when he had trouble getting permission for certain tracks, he talked to his producer, Sophie Laskar-Haller, and decided to compose the music himself. He then set out on a journey of his own, back to the year 2000, when he left his native France to study architecture in Weimar, Germany, and from the apartment he was living in at the time, he was able to see the Buchenwald concentration camp. monument. “I was violently confronted with the story,” he said. “At the time, I was making a lot of music. I started playing klezmer music. I learned Yiddish, which was not the language of our family because we are Sephardim”.

TheWrap ShortList Film Festival 2023 Jonathan Laskar "the record"
“The Record” (Punch Paper Movies)

Going through these memories, he said, inspired him to compose a mosaic of music that reflected his family’s history as Sephardic Jews who originated in North Africa and came to Europe before World War II. Sounds range from traditional Jewish music, North African lutes and flutes to classical Western piano. “In the end, the music was very personal, much closer to the story he wanted to tell,” Laskar said.

And that story was based on that of his grandfather, who was separated from his mother at the Swiss border in 1939 and survived five years in prison in Nazi Germany. “There is a family and historical background, although it is not [strictly] autobiographical,” said Laskar, who brought in Swiss animator Sébastien Godard to help with some of the imagery in the store sequences. “The fact that the main character is cut off from his cultural identity is very personal to me. My family is religious. But I was cut off from religion as a child because I wasn’t raised in religion, unlike the rest of my family.”

TheWrap ShortList Film Festival 2023 Jonathan Laskar "the record"
“The Record” (Punch Paper Movies)

Most of “The Record” is in black and white, with blocks of parallel lines of various shapes serving as leitmotifs reminiscent of prison bars and the idea of ​​confinement. But as the store owner listens to the magic record and deals with the encounter with the train and records everything on a series of analog cassette tapes, he finally accesses his earliest memories of being with his mother, and these memories are in color.

Ominous-looking trees in black and white transform into lusher vegetation in soft earth tones surrounding a boy and woman playing the lute. And unlike the sharp cuts that punctuate scenes in the store, the images unfold more fluidly here. “Through this trauma, he lost his color perception,” Laskar said. “Only by overcoming this memory can he perceive reality and his surroundings in color again.”

The 2023 ShortList Film Festival takes place online from June 28 to July 12, honoring the best award-winning short films that premiered at major festivals in the past year. See the finalists and vote for your favorite here.

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