Jarring angles and stark black and white lighting turn paper cutouts into an unsettling battle scene that makes you think twice about just how threatening a piece of paper can be. In “Paper War” we see the last moments of a soldier inside the trench warfare of WWI. The piece is a scene a from short film called “Onión,” by Juan Pablo Zaramella of Argentina.
Zaramella calls “Onión” a multiple technique experimental piece, a combination of live action and different animation techniques. Of “Paper War” he says, “At first, I wanted to do this scene with a volumetric cut out with real photos of soldiers of 1st World War, but after some meetings with the animation team at the Can Can Club, we decided to ask my old friend Sebastian Dufour (one of the bests illustrators in Argentina) to draw the soldiers.” It is is Dufour’s unusual drawing style that gives the old ‘photographs’ in the piece their blurred borders, undefined faces, and overall antique feel.
Working with paper was a fairly fluid process for Zaramella due to all the possibilities for movement with that medium. “We combined not only folds but also cuts in the silhouettes,” he says, “and as they were paper prints, if a character was damaged during the animation process, it was very fast and easy to replace it by a new one. We shot the whole scene in only 4 or 5 days.
The final scene of the piece lands the soldier in an afterlife-like setting surrounded by the first pop of color throughout–punchy orange tangerines in towers and segments all around him. Zaramella explains the surreal choice this way: “The last part with the tangerines came to me because I didn’t have a plan of what could happen in ‘heaven.’ When I saw one of the animators eating tangerines in the studio next to a big piece of mirror, I had a vision of how this heaven could be. It’s all. We just ate all the tangerines the following day.”