LAS PALMAS (2011)
Starring Helmi Hellrand Nyholm
Directed by Johannes Nyholm
It’s very rare that I am absolutely captivated by a film that I have the urge to play it over and over again, but LAS PALMAS is one of those films. I also believe it to be one of the greatest short films of all time. Let me tell you why….
The synopsis reads, “A middle-aged lady on a holiday in the sun tries to make new friends and have a good time”. Except the ‘middle-aged lady’ is infact the 1 year old daughter of writer and director, Johannes Nyholm, and the rest of the cast consist of puppets, expertly handled by experienced puppeteers. Getting a one year old child to ‘act’ is incredibly difficult and near impossible as they are unable to comprehend any sort of script or direction, but herein lies the brilliance of it all. Little Helmi behaves naturally in the film and gives the most convicing performance of a drunken middle aged woman I have ever seen. Period. Johnny Depp once mentioned how one year old kids are like miniature drunks, and how true he was. Helmi falls into things, throws her exotic cocktail around, eats other peoples meals and coughs food up, yet she is stone cold sober. Her actions are what most one year old children perform, but when you put her in the context of sitting in a Spanish bar, surrounded by puppet people, it makes the situation more believable that this is indeed a woman, out of her face, enjoying what Las Palmas has to offer.
Helmi interacts with the believable puppets, that are handled with such precision, and provide much of the detail in this short film. Whilst Helmi tucks into her ice-cream sundae, there’s people eating in the background and a musician playing his keyboard. The staff of the bar are attending to the customers, hoovering up and tilling in the bills. Later on in the film, we see scenes of a volleyball match, accurately depicted with a hairy tanned gentleman wearing nothing but a tiny pair of speedos and a topless lady. Nice! The puppets faces are static and no-one in the film speaks, including Helmi, but the movements and head tilts of the puppets express more than words ever could. This film is accessible to everyone around the world and everybody at some point in their life has witnessed a similar environment as depicted in the film.
Helmi is no doubt the star of the show though, with her face expressing all sorts of inquisitiveness, sadness, disgust and other drunken emotions. She is aided in her quest to be transformed into a lady by a padded bra, earrings, sun hat and bum bag, not to mention the tourist ‘Las Palmas’ souveneir vest top. The puppets are also attired suitably, with the tourists sporting a pair of sunglasses and the staff wearing their red suits. An immense amount of work has gone into the sets and props to give the impression of actually being in the sunny capital of Gran Canaria. Despite it being obvious it’s a make-believe set, I am transported into that tropical place, with the sounds of Spain playing gently in the background, and I feel that I am genuinely watching a middle aged drunken tourist trash a bar.
This film is uplifting and downright hilarious. I believe, like me, you’ll be watching this again and again.