Genre: Dark Comedy/Satire/Experimental
Year Released: 2017
Running Time: 7 minutes
Rating/Recommended Audience: 13+
Related Films/Series: N/A
For Fans Of: Heart Chakra is quite a unique short film with not many things I can think of that match the themes of it.
-Heart Chakra is streaming on Vimeo.
-Angela Stempel is an animator who has commissioned work for Ava Luna and Viceland.
-Heart Chakra was a Vimeo Staff Pick.
-Angela Stempel has her MFA in experimental animation from CalArts.
Vimeo, you’re such a handy site. I’ve enjoyed posting my video projects on there while also enjoying the videos from others with this platform. Over the past year, I’ve been forcing myself to watch more works from around the world. The fact they cover so many short films and non-mainstream animation was a huge plus for me. I decided to look at recent Staff Pick winners on the site and I stumbled across this animated piece from Venezuelan-American director Angela Stempel.
Is this film going to be in tune to the Iridium Eye universe? Let’s find out.
Heart Chakra is about a woman named Mae. She is obsessed with yoga, New Age philosophies, horoscopes, and her biggest collection involves healing crystals. Mae has more crystals than a mine or a jewelry store with one for every occasion. At the start of her day, she vies to find her perfect soulmate by any means possible. So sayeth her horoscopes and chanting, then so shall it be done, right? However, things certainly don’t go according to plan for her.
This was quite the pleasant surprise for me in the animation department. I guess after watching things such as Sita Sings the Blues, Fantastic Planet, or the works from Robot Communications, I’ve been growing more accustomed to more experimental and trippy forms of animation. Heart Chakra comes in swinging with flashy florescent colors and creamy character designs that are abstract in their cartoony presentation. It would be a disservice if one just said that it looked like an episode of Steven Universe or Gravity Falls if the creators dropped a ton of acid, but the neo-psychedelic and surreal imagery works. I believe that it adds to Mae’s delusions of being attuned to the cosmos to the point of ignoring reality. The visuals were quite good in this regard.
I also thought the plot was funny in itself. Granted, I don’t know that many people who are ardent about healing crystals or New Age dogma besides the occasional person reading horoscopes as a joke, but I can believe that some people treat these things like the gospel. Mae is just hilarious in her delusions that her crystals and teachings will help to find the perfect soulmate. It does get innocently funny at first, but things really take a dark turn in a surprisingly realistic way. Yes, there’s some irony in what I just wrote which I won’t spoil, but I could see how being so ingrained in that thinking could lead to nothing but trouble. One aspect that I probably liked more than I should (I don’t know if this was intentional on Angela Stempel’s part), was that she has what I’d like to call “denial as optimism”. Just like in my Wrinkles review with a very iconic quote from one of the main characters in that film, I’ve noticed that so many films and even people in real life just go by thinking that everything will be all sunshine and roses while ignoring the reality around them. However, Heart Chakra takes this delusional optimism and puts it in a darkly comedic take which serves as a perfect contrast to the effervescent color palette. This was well-done.
Heart Chakra was a fun little short film, but I’m not going to call it stone perfect. While the character designs are quite abstract, one thing that flew over my head was the random character design change for Mae. After getting the adularia crystal, her body changes from a skinny and somewhat dumpy look to a much taller and fuller figure. I can understand being taller like getting more confidence, but her ponderous design from that moment on was a bit confusing for me. I thought that some aspects got way more disturbing than it should’ve been like how she envisions her soul mate. Let’s say she needs much better taste and a ton of psychological help if Mae believes that something that isn’t human can be soul mate material (I’m avoiding spoilers, but I can’t make up what happens to her). Before that scene happens, Mae totally hits on the waiter at the cafe by asking for his “eternal love”. It was funny how he responds that it isn’t on the menu, but come on. If the genders were reversed, then this would lead to a #MeToo post online. I’m glad it was shown as a flaw for Mae, but I couldn’t shake it off.
This animated film was worth the seven minutes I watched when I didn’t have as much free time. The dark humor worked way more often than not. The animation while on the strange side worked as a great contrast to Mae’s rampant denial of the real world around her. Some elements were too surreal and the random character design change for Mae did throw me off though. However, Heart Chakra certainly made me laugh and think about different things as it satirized people who take horoscopes, yoga classes, and healing crystals way too seriously.
Adjustable Point System:
Add 1 point if you like experimental animation.
Subtract 2-4 points if you like you animation to be more normal-looking.
-Great surrealistic animation
-Brilliant display of Mae’s denial as optimism
-Funny satirical elements
-Can be too abstract for some
-Disturbing implications of Mae seeing her “soulmate” as she loses her mind
-Some non-sensical off-model moments
Final Score: 8/10 points
Content Warning: Heart Chakra would be fine for teens and up. The scene at the Awareness Cafe where Mae is eyeing a waiter and wanting his eternal love would totally be sexual harassment. There are some disturbing things like how far Mae will go to find her soulmate. The ending has so much fridge horror and isn’t for the faint of heart.
All photos property of their respective owners and used under US “Fair Use” laws. The screenshot is from Vimeo and is property of Angela Stempel. Heart Chakra is property of Angela Stempel.