2008 / 3 min
A moving portrait of the bustle and permanence of a city.
Since its premiere at Slamdance Film Festival in January 2009, "Dahlia" has screened for audiences across the globe, and was selected to helm the Best of the 47th Ann Arbor Film Festival national tour.
"Michael Langan's DAHLIA animates actual photography in confounding and fascinating ways."
– The New York Times
"Michael Langan's DAHLIA is breathtaking. He has inverted animation and instead of creating motion by moving characters or objects across the frame, he creates a kind of magical stasis where objects in motion are kept center frame while everything else moves around it. Perspectives shift, landscapes slide past, this is a window into an alternate universe of motion and is beautiful to boot. The film is full of witty and poetic variations and is rewarding in view after view. I think I've watched it ten times... today."
– Jeff Scher
AS SEEN ON
Sidewalk Film Festival – Best Animated Short
Holland Animation Film Festival / Holland
New York International Children's Film Festival / USA
Wallabout Film Festival (Opening Film) / USA
Crossroads Film Festival / USA
LA United Film Festival / USA
Kurz & Knapp Vienna Independent Shorts Tour / Europe
Ottawa International Animation Festival / Canada
ByDesign Northwest Film Forum / USA
The Films We Like, The Lanternhouse / UK
Slamdance Film Festival (World Premiere) / USA
Ann Arbor Film Festival (Opening Night Program) / USA
Best of 47th Ann Arbor Film Festival Tour (Opening Film) / USA
Seattle International Film Festival / USA
Ottawa International Animation Festival / Canada
Anima Mundi International Animation Festival / Brazil
Maryland International Film Festival (Opening Night Program) / USA
Sapporo Short Fest / Japan
Woodstock Film Festival / USA
Sidewalk Film Festival / USA
Salento Finibus Terrae International Short Film Festival / Italy
Artscape Arts Festival / USA
San Francisco United Film Festival / USA
Exploratorium Presents: Cinema Arts Program / USA
Bill Plympton's Annecy Plus / France
Rooftop Films / USA
Kalamazoo Animation Festival International / USA
Short & Sweet / UK
Geronimo / USA
In January of 2008, "Doxology" screened at Slamdance in Park City, USA, and was lucky enough to be awarded Best Experimental Short at the festival. Slamdance subsequently invited me to participate in their $99 Special filmmakers' challenge, for which the filmmaker receives a $99 budget and must complete a film of less than five minutes within a period of a few months. Eager for an excuse to make a new film and grateful for the deadline, I got to work on "Dahlia."
The film builds off of a few ideas I'd been playing with for some years, perhaps most importantly the method of stabilizing images on a specific point, inspired by Stephen X. Arthur's 1999 film "Vision Point." For "Dahlia," the entire film was shot with visual continuity in mind. During the replacement animation sequences involving parking meters, sidewalk cracks, and iron fences, I lined up each subject with the same grid marks in the viewfinder frame by frame, then moved the position and rotation of each frame in post to ensure absolute alignment and minimize visual strain for the viewer. For the dahlia flower sequences, I chose a point within the flower on which to stabilize, inducing a trancelike effect during which the viewer's eyes are pulled to the absolute center of the subject around which the background revolves. The same stabilization technique was employed to control the beach footage and city buildings; an additional virtual camera allowed movement within the larger, original frame.
"Dahlia" is titled after the brilliant flowers that appear mid-way through the film. San Francisco is home to a spectacular Dahlia Garden in Golden Gate Park, where this scene was shot, and claims the dahlia as its official flower. The dimensionality of the flowers, accentuated by stabilization, is heightened with the use of an on-board flash. The light source is attached to and therefore moves with the camera, creating a surreal perspective and emphasizing the radial reflections and shadows that make the dahlia such a breathtaking specimen.
The soundtrack of the film was five years in the making. While viewing the test sequences of "Dahlia," a musical rhythm presented itself within the footage in 3/4 time at roughly 200 beats per minute. The music needed to be primal, and if possible, vocal. A song that I'd written for my very first (10-second long) animation, "Mountain Man," popped into my head, and after a little digging I paired the music with the footage and found them a perfect match. I built out the score's structure with a bit more vocal work and some synthesizer, and it served the three-minute film well.
I am very excited by reinterpreting the world around us through the animation of photography, and consider "Dahlia" an observational film. The themes which naturally arose during production revolved around patterns (both natural and manufactured), stability (our larger environment), and frenetic movement (animals; humans included).