Locarno review: Money and Happiness (2022)

Pardi di Domani
International Competition

Film still from ‘Money and Happiness’ ©︎Ana Nedeljkovic Nikola Majdak

One of the sentences from 1960s still sticks like a glue although its sense has significally altered since the moment it started being used as a motivator for achieving material success. “Work hard” is still an often repeated mantra, mostly by those who come from the place of priviledge and inherited money and/or businesses and know very little about hard work, or by those who refuse to acknowledge changes on the global work market. The time of regulated working hours and certain freedoms that came with it, is almost completely behind us. ‘All inclusive’ contracts, high expectations by the employers who offer very little to keep the motivation burning, rising costs of life barely supported by salary increase (if any in years) are weighing heavily on people’s shoulders. We became slaves of work, sweet-talked into pushing even harder to make others richer and ourselves materially and intellectually poorer. ‘No time for…’ has become a standard statement, even if it’s about such things as going for a long walk or reading a book.

Productivity above anything else, and the false sense of happiness for the achieved ‘success’ at work are the central topics of Ana Nedeljković’ and Nikola Majdak Jr’s stop motion animation Money and Happiness, which screens in Locarno’s Pardi di Domani international short film competition.

It’s a world of hard-working hamsters whose level of happiness is getting ‘scientifically’ proved by high-tech machines that always come to the same result: there is no sign of discontent among the employees. They are part of the oiled money-making machine, uniformed in their dedication to work and the lack of private life.

“I don’t even remember when I signed the contract, maybe I was even born here” narrates the voice of one of the loveable, big-eared hamsters who work for a big whatever-producing company. “I love my work”, he continues. It’s a perfect corporate state, he claims. His hollow eyes and the almost hypnotic mechanism of actions contradict those words.

Ana Nedeljković and Nikola Majdak Jr. return to the topic of the individuality loss and repetetivness in life previously explored in Rabbitland (2013), Untravel (2018) and Happiness Machine (2019).

Majdak’s camera is almost completely fluid, with unnoticeable glitches which recreate the sense of mechanic actions. The film has a three act structure, with the frst and second part imitating the tone of purposeful videos, while the lead hamster’s undefined East-European accent serves as a comment on the stereotypical representation of East and West.

Also brilliant in its reference to the artificially generated happiness is the original score composed by Dušan Petrović, played in loops.

Directed by: Ana Nedeljković, Nikola Majdak Jr.
Animation: Ana Nedeljković, Leon Vidmar, Nikola Majdak Jr.
Production Design: Ana Nedeljković
Story: Ana Nedeljković
Script Consultant: Bojan Vuletić
Character Design: Ana Nedeljković
Director of Photography: Nikola Majdak Jr.
Producer: Jelena Mitrović
Co-Producer (Finta Film): Tina Smrekar
Co-Producer: (BFILM): Petar Badač
Executive Producer: Igor Kecman
Editing: Milina Trišić
Music: Dušan Petrović
Sound Design: Julij Zornik
Colour Grading and Rig Removal: Vladan Obradović
Narrator: Maša Mileusnić
Rigging: Leon Vidmar, Nikola Majdak Jr.
Second Unit Photography: Žarko Bogdanović
Production Assistant: Jasna Delić
VFX Supervisor: Ivan Pribićević
VFX Coordinator: Ada Sokolović
VFX Compositor: Nemanja Tasić