Animator and filmmaker Rino Stefano Tagliafierro has always found the intensity of the emotions he encounters through classical paintings unmatched by other artforms. And when he sat down to craft his latest short film, Beauty, he sought to convey the emotional impact of that artwork on him to an audience who might not be otherwise moved.
"The idea of Beauty is born from the desire to (convey) the main emotions that every person encounters throughout his life path," says Tagliafierro. "Classical art has always attracted my most intense emotions, so I decided to (let it) represent them."
The resulting project, Beauty, is a tour through the human life cycle—from birth to death—that draws on those classical paintings to tell that story in an absorbing way. By adding subtle animation to the artworks he chose, Tagliafierro actively depicts the motion that's only ever implied in the original pieces. The result is a stunning, haunting series of moving images that makes the work feel alive in different—often surreal—ways.
The possibility that these images could be both beautiful and jarring by adding motion is something that Tagliafierro was aware of when he conceived the project. "I've always found the idea to move a frozen image interesting," he explained. "The movements are suspended in a distant time, or appear to come from the imagination of the viewer." In an earlier short, 2011's My Super8, (which screened at nearly a dozen film festivals around the world) Tagliafierro used a similar technique to animate photographic images—which taught him the power of using surreal imagery to convey difficult-to-reach emotions. "[In My Super8], I moved the characters in surreal ambiance," he explained, while in Beauty, he says, "the gestures and looks of the characters can be surreal and bewitched, and this aspect is part of my imagination—a bit creepy and restless—that shines through in all of my work. But my intent was first to convey the emotions you feel when I find myself in front of the masterpieces of classical art. Since Beauty is an emotional story, my main focus was to arouse strong emotions. I hope I succeeded."
The answer to that question is up to the individual viewer, but the diligence of Tagliafierro's process means that, if someone watching Beauty is unmoved, it's not for lack of trying.
"I elaborated the images with photo editing software, and used cut-out digital," he explains of the techniques he used to bring Beauty to life. "It's a meticulous process that consists of the characters cut out from the depths of rebuilding and redesigning the hidden parts. Then, I animated the subjects with After Effects." He passed the work on to the project's sound designer, Enrico Ascoli—but, he says, "The search and selection of images lasted years."
The result is a nine-minute film that spans 115 paintings and the journey from birth to death. There's plenty of beauty to be found in that.
Check the credits for a list of the paintings featured.