The Burden (2017) by Niki Lindroth von Bahr : Film Review

The Burden animation still

From Cannes Festival (international premiere) to  Annecy Festival (where it won the 2017 Annecy Cristal for Best Short film) to Clermont Ferrand (Best Film), and a multitude of other festival acclaim, the existential musical comedy 'The Burden' by Swedish Niki Lindroth von Bahr is one of the most successful indie animation shorts of recent years.

It starts with a 360-degree turn of a mega mall at night, a perennial symbol of unlimited consumption before it lands to a medium close-up of a fish (and an employee in a "Long Time" hotel). In the first of the four animal vignettes, the fish group (the employee and three fish clients and puppets) describes loneliness as a bad smell in singing -like a more deadpan version of Jacques Demy's 'The Umbrellas of Cherbourg'. 

Singing, talking in verse or dancing becomes the key to communication in the two vignettes to follow: the incomparable tap dancing routine of the mouse employees, the group singing of chimps as phone telemarketing employees (who promise everything but contract cancellation to their prospective clients); and lastly the unified tuning of all animal groups (yet still in separate shots).

'No sorrow, no troubles / when the burden's lifted from my shoulders'. Niki Lindroth von Bahr makes more than a singing parable of work exploitation and existential dread. She invites us to live a semi-conscious state of being, in which arguments are replaced by verses and song and dance become the escape clause for us not going mad. 

It helps that she uses a meticulous puppet movement, placed in a mall full of colorful things and lighting that always brings poignancy to mind. Helped by the autotuned fine singing voices, 'The Burden' makes its statement that our lives are drifting away -and we seem to be perfectly happy about it. Cool.

Watch 'The Burden':

The Burden (2017)Script: Niki Lindroth von Bahr |  Producer: Kalle Wettre, Malade | Music: Hans Appelqvist | Lyrics: Martin Luuk | Voices: Klungan | With support from The Swedish Film Institute, Film i Väst, Filmbasen, Rooftop Films, Film på Gotland

Want to read more free articles like this?


Keep this professional animation journalism effort relevant and updated. Become our patron


Related Articles


Zippy Frames is the premier online animation journal promoting European and Independent Animation animation since 2011

[email protected]

Zippy Frames

Quick Links