It’s been pretty widely noted that 2020 broke our relationship with time. Hours drag on while months pass in a blur; a year’s worth of news can break in a matter of days, but the stories seem to stay the same whenever you look. Something about the way time works seems to have fundamentally changed, and not necessarily for the better.

If you’re looking for someone to blame, the protagonist in the Gobelins short Killing Time is as good a scapegoat as any. It might just be a coincidence that this student film was release just before time went fully haywire, but when it comes to the battle between art and reality, you never really know.

Directed by Camille Guillot, Fanny Hagdahl Sörebo, Aleksandra Krechman, Sarah Naciri, Morgane Ravelonary, and Valentine Zhang (Gobelins student films always have a bevvy of collaborators), Killing Time is the story of Loukoum, who’s being driven mad by the passing of time. So, she does what any of us would do if we had access to the logic of old fables—step outside and tell Time itself to tone it down a notch. The rest of the film follows a path that’s equal parts folklore and The Cat Came Back, with the amiable personification of time unknowingly tormenting Loukoum by just being itself.

The dynamic between the two is one that’s worked well in countless cartoons over the years, and (pardon the pun) there’s a timelessness to the short that truly suits its material. Time itself is given a flexible form, a stark white body, and an angular sundial face that come together like a precursor to the ethereal authorities in soul. The rest of the world is drawn in big blocks of colour and simple, thick lines that lend themselves to distortion and exaggeration—just look at how over-the-top the expressions can get without breaking the design.

Cute and cartoonish as it is, Killing Time isn’t quite a kids story—the sorts of frustrations it deals with are ones that will resonate with adults more than toddlers. The creative team has just decided that whimsy would do more to tackle this particular anxiety than self-seriousness could. The design also helps open the film to the childlike wonder of its conclusion, a mood that’s much harder to hit in a more realistic world.

The anxiety that Gobelins’ students are capturing here is a different one than the struggles with time prompted by a year of COVID restrictions, but it still strikes a chord in our current reality. A mixture of frustration and acceptance is probably the best we can hope for, because no matter what we do, time is just doing its own thing.

Killing Time

dir: Camille Guillot, Fanny Hagdahl Sörebo, Aleksandra Krechman, Sarah Naciri, Morgane Ravelonary, and Valentine Zhang
syn: Loukoum can’t stand the passage of Time anymore. She decides to go face it in person and free herself from its control. But can you really get rid of Time itself?

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