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Western Animation / Genius Loci

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Genius Loci is a 2020 animated short film (12 minutes) from France, directed by Adrien Merigeau.

A young black woman, Reine, shares an apartment in a rather run-down urban area with her sister Mouna and Mouna's baby son. Reine complains to Mouna about "your son" creeping into her room. Mouna says that she wants Reine to make dinner and eat with them. Mouna exits, Reine walks over to the dinner table...and things get weird indeed, as the throw rug turns into a trampoline and the glass of water Reine knocks over somehow floods the whole kitchen. Things get stranger and stranger after that, as Reine leaves the apartment and goes on a weird hallucinogenic journey, one in which shapes morph and shift around her, people change form unpredictably, and reality itself seems to be left behind completely.



  • Ambiguously Gay: It's strongly suggested that Reine and Rosie, the woman she meets in the church, were lovers. Rosie says that it's been a while and that when Reine left she took one of Rosie's sweaters. Reine says that she wants to spend time with her, and Rosie touches Reine's forearm. It's also noteworthy that the imagery which had gotten very very crazy snaps back to something more like reality, as Rosie and Reine have a normal, coherent conversation...until Rosie turns into a tree. That happens right after Rosie says she doing something "with my Polish friend", a statement which seems to disturb Reine and hints at a Love Triangle.
  • Anthropomorphic Food: Briefly, as part of the bizarre hallucinations or visions or whatever that Reine is experiencing. An abandoned fast-food box on the ground opens by itself. Inside, there are shapes that look like potatoes...except that they have eyes, and arms, and they are playing instruments as a jazz combo. Then the box closes itself up.
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  • Deranged Animation: A woman bursts into flames of nowhere, another woman turns into a tree, the protagonist turns into a dog, random shapes and colors appear and disappear, realistic drawings of Reine's face shimmer and turn into abstract shapes. Someone's abandoned fast-food lunch briefly transforms into a jazz band. All the animation from when Reine leaves the apartment is truly bizarre.
  • Genius Loci: Maybe? There isn't anything to specifically suggest that the neighborhood Reine walks through is a living being with a shared consciousness, but Reine has thoughts to that effect.
    Reine: All around me, I find chaos. It's always there. It just changes in scale. You can't stop it. You can only watch it. Listen to it. It transforms things, people, ideas....It's a movement. It's alive. And it shines, like some sort of guide.
  • Gratuitous English: The apple that Reine picks up buzzes like a cell phone. Then words pop up on the screen that suggest phone texts. While all the dialogue in the cartoon is in French, all the texts are in English. ("Hello Reine...Can you see me?") Later, after Reine has a strange and evidently unsatisfactory encounter with a woman named Rosie, the English-language texts pop up again. ("What's got into you, going to talk to that little princess....honestly, what were you can never be yourself with those people....break free of all that.")
  • Foreshadowing: One of the first shots is of a white lady with red hair taking off her earrings, before the film cuts to Mouna in the kitchen washing dishes. The white woman is Rosie, whom Reine later sees playing an organ in what is apparently an abandoned church.
  • ISO-Standard Urban Groceries: Reine sees a woman carrying a brown paper grocery bag full of apples, the apples all being loose in the bag per this trope. Naturally, the woman bursts into flames.
  • Mind Screw: Filled with bizarre, hallucinogenic imagery. A woman carrying a bag of apples drops one. Reine picks it up and offers it to the woman—who bursts into flames. Then Reine looks down at the apple in her hand, which starts buzzing like a cell phone, and Reine starts getting texts.
  • Mushroom Samba: Maybe. The whole cartoon is filled with bizarre imagery of the sort commonly used to suggest an acid trip or other drug-induced hallucination. Geometric shapes appear out of nowhere and grow and change and disappear. A street beggar's face is superimposed with the head of a horse. A woman turns into a tree. The pot boiling on the stove turns a series of different colors before morphing into abstract shapes. Papers blown by the wind transform into two dogs, then turn back into papers. It certainly looks like a Mushroom Samba, but the only problem is that Reine isn't shown using anything stronger than a cigarette.
  • Ominous Pipe Organ: Spooky organ music is heard on the soundtrack. Reine is soon revealed to be in an abandoned church. The organ music grows louder and more ominous—and is shown to be coming from Reine's friend Rosie, who is playing the still-working organ in the abandoned church.
  • Red Eyes, Take Warning: And red eyes changing back suggests that danger has passed. Reine has turned into a dog and is wrecking the apartment when Mouna grabs her, hugs her, and tells her that everything will be OK and "You decide." There's a closeup of Mouna's eye and Dog Reine's eye as they do a Headbutt of Love, then Reine's eyes shift from red to green to match her sister's as she (apparently) regains human form.
  • Shapeshifting: Reine turns into a dog. Yep. She runs around the neighborhood for a while before coming back to the apartment, wrecking the kitchen, and growling menacingly at the baby in the crib. That's when Mouna runs out, grabs Dog Reine, hugs her, and tells her to calm down. After a moment she does, and appears to regain human form.
  • Through the Eyes of Madness: The most likely explanation for the events of the film is that they represent Reine's emotional state, implying that she has some sort of psychological problem.
  • Visual Pun:
    • Reine picks up an apple, which starts buzzing like a cell phone, and what appear to be texts pop up on screen. If it is supposed to be a phone, then the apple might be a reference to Apple and the iPhone. Maybe.
    • There's an obvious pun in the bit where the man on the street, who catcalls Reine, turns into a bull.