Andy Kennedy’s 2016 short Slow Wave is split neatly into two parts, each of them depicting a different kind of restlessness. The first half of the film shows the unease that accompanies those restless nights where sleep never seems to come. The second shows that falling asleep isn’t always so great, either.
Kennedy takes advantage of the perceived stiffness of CGI in the first half, planting the camera at a respectful distance and using a clean, straightforward setting to establish a sense of mundane reality. That’s what makes it so jarring when the room starts distorting itself in rhythm with the sounds of the outside world. The camera holds despite the increasingly jarring intrusions into the room, like it’s trying and failing to maintain an objective view. It’s a perfect way to capture the unsettling way that, in the halfway-state between waking and sleep, late-night noises can feel like an assault on reality.
Eventually, sleep comes to Slow Wave and its reality folds in on itself, with the film taking on a subjective, first-person point of view for its nightmarish second half. It’s strange, though—the more distant introduction feels more immediate to me, and more visceral. Maybe it’s because animation has such a long history of tackling nightmares, which makes sense given how plastic and expressive it is as a medium, but makes it that much harder for a nightmare to stand out. Once the film goes in that direction, it’s a little less surprising, no matter how well executed. But the first half ensures you’ll never look at floorboards quite the same way again.
dir. Andy Kennedy, 2016
Syn: Sleep disturbances from outside and within.