Alma (2009, Spain) is an animated short film by ex-Pixar animator, Rodrigo Blaas. The storyline goes thus: a little girl, passing along a desolate snowy street is “enchanted” by an eerie toyshop that mysteriously unlocks its door and lures her in. The doll that fascinates her keeps shifting farther and farther into the shop, and the child, unsuspecting and with utter awe, reaches out and touches the doll. After a series of nightmarish, pediophobiac shots, the child disappears and we only hear the sound of muffled anxious breathing from within the doll. True to her name, Alma, which means “soul” in Spanish, the child’s soul has become entrapped within the doll. The film ends on this disturbingly ambiguous note.
The film’s producer, Cécile Hokes, while admitting that the film has no moral lesson, remarked that Alma is the story of “a little girl, very nosy, who is interested in everything and who would be punished because of her curiosity.” The tragic doom of the child is attributed to her curiosity (read nosiness).
This notion aside, the film can be seen as a dark allegorical take on the working of the human society. On how society invades the rights of the individual who has to pawn his soul to the system to gain conformation, and that too, against his will. On how the adult world and the child’s world contradict each other through their opposing value systems.
The film is, in essence, about deception—deception of both the child and the benumbed audience. The ominous but ingenuously scary music (by Mastretta), Alma’s innocence, the “Christmassy” setting, the jollity of the palette, and the adult approach to dolls as mere playthings—empty plastic shapes that can be discarded after use—all these are the deceptive tools aimed at the audience. The adult world cannot know the strong emotion that attracts her to a doll resembling her and that drives Alma into the shop, so trustingly. The imprisonment of the child is double-fold, a trap within a trap: the door of the shop closes for her the immense bright outside and the child-turned-doll has only a limited vision of the dark toyshop, only just as much the diameter of the doll’s eyes allow. This implies a narrowing of perspective, unable to whet one’s curiosity and as a result, unable to learn.
Society and forced identity (here, a forced gender too) constitute the double ensnarement of the individual. The curious child, here, is immobilized within the system, as befitting the proper norms of society. The adult world, as in the case of Huckleberry Finn, entraps and tries to remould children into commodities, profitable and attractive dolls for sale. They are unable to escape (as seen in the attempts of the toy on the bicycle that frantically bashes against the door) because the monster shop, though gladly allows the “uncivilized” outside to enter, bars the “civilized” from ever going back.
CLOWNIN’ Score = 4/5