The Windshield Wiper (2021)
Director: Alberto Mielgo
Screenwriter: Alberto Mielgo
Starring: Eboni Adams, Kara Dyan Whitfield, Fanny Rosen, Charlie Bean, Jake Bercovici, Zachary Rosencrantz, Andrew Calder, Anca Tiribeia, Alberto Mielgo
Spanish animator and artist Alberto Mielgo has offered a beautiful pastel-aesthetic animated short project in The Windshield Wiper that has been so articulately put together and speaks so truthfully to our collective longing for (and absence from) human connection, that it is one of the year’s most awe-inspiring short films and a worthy 2022 Oscars Short Animation nominee.
The at one time visual consultant on Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, and third-time short film director (following Ubisoft: Tipping Point 2020 – Watch Dog Legion and ‘Death and Robots’ episode “The Witness”, 2019) takes a lot of inspiration from 1960s and 70s films, none more apparent than the Taxi Driver-esque title cards and the smoke-filled hues of the coffee shop setting that acts as The Windshield Wiper’s opening shot.
Voiced over by ongoing conversation featuring full profanity, and featuring a man smoking a cigarette in a sumptuous render, it is clear from the off that Mielgo’s animated short isn’t for kids, and as it progresses through love, lust and romance in a series of vignettes, it presents nudity (including full-frontal male nudity) and sex to solidify its stance. This isn’t an existential coming-of-age film like so many of the Animated Short nominees so often are at the Oscars, this is a mature exploration of what bonds each of us; the stuff that we all experience yet so rarely discuss honestly with one another.
So much can be said for the colour palette of The Windshield Wiper. There’s such a variety, both in contrasts and overall spread, that the warmth of the pastels somehow both soothe and bounce out of the screen; it is truly a delectable construction. And Mielgo uses every excuse to work in a variety of lighting, whether it be a beach sunset, a UV-lit high street with changing traffic lights, the soft hue of a smoke-filled cafeteria, to not only reinforce the quality of his animation but feed into the special feelings of love and romance that can be found amongst the Earth’s most natural of occurrences (and its absence among the world’s most false of settings).
Soft, melodic folk with acoustic guitar acts as an appropriate backing track. “We Might Be Dead By Tomorrow” by SoKo – its words “Let’s love now, let’s love loud, because soon enough we’ll die” being particularly poignant amongst the sequences of lovers loving and lovers lost. This is an almost exclusively young and fashionable world, the aesthetics of each of the human characters helping to forge a universe that feels filled with romantic possibilities even in the absence of them, and importantly reinforces the need for smoke-filled rooms, millennial debates in the soundtrack, and its beautiful sountrack.
As The Windshield Wiper and by effect Alberto Mielgo ask “what is love?”, the filmmaker’s answer is appropriately strong; his film anchoring this sense that for all the hate that is so obvious in our world, it is our love and our collective experiences of love that bind us the most. And he has a point; love is a lot, and it’s so often all around us, and yet we rarely speak of all that it brings to us, we rarely celebrate all that it is. Perhaps it’s time we do.
The Windshield Wiper isn’t your typical linear animated project setting out to reach universal acclaim, but for the right person this will prove to be important. Regardless, it offers animation that is truly remarkable in places and Mielgo seeks every opportunity to show it off. At 15 minutes, experiencing this Oscars nominee is like peering into a new EP from SoKo herself, a mood, a presence, a vibe, that opens up new lanes of thinking amongst drab days of filler material.