While chain-smoking cigarettes in a noisy café, a man wonders aloud: ‘What is love?’ From this starting point, the Oscar-winning animated short The Windshield Wiper (2021) contemplates this enduring question via a series of loosely tethered vignettes, depicting human connection in many of its complexities and contradictions. In his vision, the Spanish director Alberto Mielgo presents the concept as, by turns, ephemeral, exciting, tragic, passionate and poignant. A woman and man exchange fleeting glances at a motel before retreating into their rooms. An older man stands still in front of a grave adorned with fresh flowers. Text messages bounce off a satellite dish and back to Earth, relaying two lovers’ messages the day after a first tryst. A young woman takes her own life.
Mielgo is perhaps best known for some of the oddest and most ambitious entrées in Netflix’s animated sci-fi anthology series Love, Death & Robots (2019-). His unmistakable 3D style adorns realistically proportioned bodies and backgrounds with impressionistic flourishes. Here, his magnetic visuals work alongside the central theme to join the disparate sequences into a hazy whole. This magical realist sensibility proves to be a perfect canvas for his patchwork meditation, which, drawn from his own experiences, still feels expansive and, at times, surely relatable for most viewers. Standing in stark contrast to more idealistic and romantic depictions of love presented on film, and especially in animation, Mielgo builds a work that endeavours to be as disjointed and surreal, as opaque and multifarious, as the experience itself.
Written by Adam D’Arpino
Director: Alberto Mielgo
Producer: Leo Sanchez