Daniella Koffler, who is shortly to become my daughter-in-law, attended the Bezalel Academy of Art and Design after completing her M.A. in Art History at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. When they met she and my son, Eitan, quickly found that they had a lot in common, and have been together for the last five or six years, during which period both of them were studying at Bezalel, Animation in Daniella’s case, an M.A. in Industrial Design in Eitan’s.
For her graduation project Daniella was required to produce a film on any subject, and after a lengthy gestation process, created ‘Stairs to no End.’ An animation film is by no means a simple thing to produce, and in Daniella’s case it involved writing a scenario which also contained a rhyming background narration in English, evolving an entirely new animation technique, and sending a clear ideological message. In addition, the sound track includes a musical accompaniment, which was produced by Eitan. Truly a wonderful partnership!
The scenario and ideological message are closely intertwined, depicting the stultifying effect of hidebound orthodoxy of all kinds on independent thought. The reference is oblique, and could apply to any established religion, any political regime, or even the traditional paternalistic family, if taken to the extreme. The innovative animation technique combines a distinctive and colourful aesthetic in which actual human eyes are incorporated. The effect is both disturbing and engaging, involving a real facet of the human face with the stylised depiction of human attributes.
Recently the film was launched into the public domain via the internet (http://stairs.daniellakoffler.com), and was posted on the Vimeo site, which has established itself as the curators of online short film, short-listing it as ‘Short of the Week.’ In addition, the film has been accepted by several festivals of animation films, and has been shown, or is about to be shown, in Germany, Brazil, Spain and elsewhere.
Daniella says that she was influenced by Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s book, ‘Infidel,’ as well as by Richard Dawkins’s ‘The God Delusion.’ In making ‘Stairs to no End’ she claims that her idea was ‘to make a children’s tale for adults,’ using images similar to those of Tove Janssen’s Moomin Family, creating ‘Tove Janssen meets her dark side’ as it were. Thus, the characters are simultaneously both attractive and vulnerable, human and non-human, making it easier to relate to the very powerful message being conveyed without being offended by it.
Interestingly, after auditioning several girls in order to find the right eyes for the heroine, Daniella found that Eitan’s were the most appropriate, and that eyes are unisex. The various technical aspects of the production are interesting in themselves, presenting any number of challenges, which all seem to have been overcome. The narrator’s voice is Daniella’s own, and to my astonishment although she is a native Israeli with no trace of Anglo-Saxon heritage in her background, her accent and intonation are in a faultless American idiom.
The film is both aesthetically pleasing and intellectually stimulating, as is borne out by the large number of comments posted on the site, apparently coming from all over the world judging by the names of their authors. It certainly provides food for thought in an entertaining way.