I don’t think many of these films have great titles, but Fish Night may be the most blandly descriptive of the bunch. Fitting for a idea that comprises a lovely visual concept with very little to back it up and honestly, lines as ham-fisted as ‘Dead as our sales were last week.’ ensure that the visual splendour is all that it’s got going for it.
Two men break down in the middle of the desert, help is unforthcoming. They decide to wait until it’s cooler and one ruminates on how this used to be a seabed and wonders if the land my be haunted by the ghosts of the long dead fish that lived there. They awake to see a vision of this reality, and the younger of the two excitedly dives into the air to swim with them where he is eaten by a now extinct predator. As the vision fades away the remaining man ponders the sky.
I was reminded of Gus Van Sant’s Gerry, or Nicholas Roeg’s Walkabout, they feel like the definitive lost in the desert movies. They realise how spare and bleak the landscape is and the effect that it has on the minds of those forced to confront it. I think it was Ebert who had some line about the western, ‘landscapes so big that men have to become heroes to fill them.’ or something. Real people are small.
There’a lovely montage halfway through this joint, before the fish appear, that recognises this. One man sits in the shade resigned to their fate, the other tries in vain to fix the car. Again, we see how lovely animation can be when it isn’t constrained to a boring photorealist aesthetic. The landscape is bathed in magic hour glow, the mesas in the distance iconic of an America we saw in movies, now lost.
Everything in this short is dead. From the car to the lead’s careers, the ghosts of the fish and potentially their lives. The younger man says anything’s possible with the right attitude, but it honestly seems unlikely and when he throws himself headfirst into fantasy it all ends badly. We see his blood splash across the moon as the world returns to a cold and uncaring place.
Maybe we’re supposed to be seeing this as a testament to our generation’s lost hopes. A world that is only getting worse, and lives that are increasingly unlivable. Are the dead fish our fault? The reefs are disappearing, it seems likely. When the other man stands in the final shot, for the first time we are offered a chance to look down the road, rather than across it, and the way seems unforgiving.
Honestly again from this series, the majority of the ideas being worked into play seem to have come from a talented director and animation team. In this case Damian Nenow and Platige Image Studio; they wring the most out of it that they can and wisely focus on creating striking images, but once again we’re forced to confront the fact that as hard as they try, there just simply isn’t enough.
Love, Death & Robots is available to stream via Netflix.