World War I is back, at least in “A Fall From the Clouds.” This short film mixes 3D animation and live action to tell the unlikely romance of a dashing British pilot and the 17-year-old French lass who watches him fly off into battle from the tower of a chapel. The aviator’s squadron meets a flying circus of German aircraft and engages in airborne battles that virtually wipe out the Germans.
But on the flight back to his base, the British pilot is followed by a lone German biplane. Curiously, the British pilot is unaware that he is being followed (which is no mean feat, as the old aircraft made a considerable amount of noise during flight). The young French girl spots the Teutonic invader from her vantage point in the chapel tower and quickly pulls out her make-up compact, shining the looking glass in the direction of the enemy invader. Either the French sun that bounces off the mirror is unusually strong or the make-up compact comes with a damn powerful mirror, because the reflection shining from the hands of the French cutie automatically blinds the German pilot and he steers his biplane straight into the chapel. The German, his aircraft, the chapel and the make-up compact are all destroyed, but the French gal emerges with nary a hair out of place. The British pilot’s fate is unknown, as the film abruptly stops at this point.
Going beyond the admittedly odd story and some fairly inappropriate music (the airborne battle carries a guitar-and-synthesizer twang score that seems to have been lifted from a 70’s cop show), it should be noted that the mix of animation and live action is beautifully achieved and highly artistic. The film’s depiction of the French countryside has a soft and misty look which recalls the serenity of an Impressionist painting while the aerial battles have a harsh, violent look that calls to mind classic World War I aviation epics such as “Wings” or “Hell’s Angels.” For a six-minute film, this is quite a visual achievement.
Baltimore-area filmmaker Craig Herron created this little film. And if the plot twist doesn’t quite fit here, at least one can credit the amount of time and imagination lavished in the film’s production.