Before apps took over, speed dating was probably a fairly good option for people who valued consumer choice in their attempts at finding a partner. Perhaps it was an enjoyable pastime for certain kinds of extroverts, too. But, as the short animation Les mots de la carpe makes clear, the highest purpose of this enterprise must be to point out gleefully how dizzyingly varied and marvellously absurd we can be. At least, that’s what the French filmmaker Lucrèce Andreae conveys in a few brief minutes of astutely observed caricature.
Like a slight reworking of a set of Honoré Daumier prints, the film overflows with exaggerated traits and tics that imaginatively externalise and skewer bourgeois personalities. A woman’s ego seems to inflate her body; another’s heartfelt emotions jump from her mouth in the form of some unintended lingerie; a man’s combative conversation style involves some aggressively literal ping pong. For the caricaturist, this cabinet of delights is enhanced by the pressure cooker rules of speed dating – the rotation of partners, the ticking clock, the jittering nerves.
Andreae carries the fun – and the cringes – further still with her use of language, as bursts of words clipped out of full sentences convey everything we need to know about each speaker through their tone and delivery. Though one needn’t understand French to get the gist of these stripped-down exchanges, the film’s title – which refers to an expression meaning ‘mute as a carp’ – does gesture at its more heartwarming, even sentimental, side. As the conversations coalesce into a raucous cacophony, the date that lasts is the slo-mo one between the two shy people who haven’t managed to say a word. In the end, perhaps silence is the best way to really connect with someone.
Written by Kellen Quinn
Directed by Lucrèce Andreae