The Tesla World Light is a strange stop-motion animation short film. Robert Vilar plays Nikola Tesla in the latter days of his life, fantasizing about a system of free energy for all nations while a lightning-spouting pigeon terrorizes him around his room.

So, it’s something of an art film.

The animation technique is obviously stop-motion, especially for the pigeon, but that’s part of the charm. The rest of the animation is a technique called light animation, which involves moving a bright light in frame, resulting in light rays. In practice, it looks kind of like the trailing lights of a sparkler. It’s a pretty cool effect, and it definitely suits the subject of Tesla and his penchant for electricity experiments.

Story-wise, there is not much going on, and it gets a little abstract and crazy. But that’s kind of the point, it’s an expression of the manic genius of Tesla. Still, the strength of the film is clearly in the visual style: black-and-white with these electric light rays and stop-motion bird puppets.

Is that enough to make The Tesla World Light worth the watch? This is where the film plays to the strength of its format. As a short, this absolutely works. It’s a quick visual and narrative experiment telling a kind of story about an eccentric inventor in a style that captures his mindset and world-view. If this was stretched to 90 minutes, I guarantee it would get tiresome. But as it stands, it’s definitely worth a look.

Screens (as part of Short Cuts Programme 6):
Saturday, September 16, 6:45 PM, Scotiabank 8

Tickets can be purchased at the TIFF website.