Plastic waste is an ongoing cause for concern as the environment continues to be obliterated by human consumption and abuse. The startling effect of plastic pollution in the ocean is an especially daunting task to be reckoned with—one that we would sometimes rather sweep under the rug and forget. In his powerful award-winning animated short film The Beauty, director Pascal Schelbli takes the viewer on a journey through the ocean and forces them to reckon with this reality. Though the film begins floating in a sea of dreamlike beauty, it quickly sinks into a realm of virtual nightmare. The curtain is pulled back on our conformity as the eye is both mesmerized and horrified by the “simultaneously stunning and filthy” scenes of The Beauty.
Schelbli reimagines plastic refuse seamlessly integrated into ocean ecosystems; and, initially, the transformation is quite convincing. Discarded flip flops become glittering schools of fish, a rubber tire eel slithers through the reef, and a bubble wrap blowfish puffs out its plastic chest. However, as the film goes on, there is less effort made to hide the true nature of these creatures. Plastic whales swim with bottle cap noses, discarded utensils line the ocean floor as reefs, and plastic bags float in their feeble masquerade as jellyfish. The bubble of illusion that drew us into this bizarre world is very quickly burst. Yet, Schelbli manages to drive the message home while still highlighting the incredible beauty of the planet in such dire need of relief.
“Instead of showing another mournful stomach full of plastic bags, I thought, ‘What if plastic could be integrated into the sea life and nature solves the problem?’,” Schelbli explains. “The film should take you on a journey, where all our feelings of guilt will disappear. But in the end, we wake up and realize that we need to change something.”