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Fish Legend [Toni Silvennoinen, Finland, 2019]

In the short but sweet Fish Legend, director Toni Silvennoinen artfully blurs the line between fantasy and reality. The film follows a receptionist in a non-specific building, who realises that he is the same as a fish in a tank. This deceptively simple premise poses questions about the nature of human freedom, utilising stylish visuals and music to explore and deepen a fairly basic analogy.

As Fish Legend opens, we are immediately struck by Silvennoinen’s use of colour. The drab environment of the man’s building is almost black-and-white, with just enough colour to remind the viewer of what is missing. The washed-out greys and pale blues of the building create a sense of mundane boredom without overstating the point. By contrast, the world of the fish is vibrant. The film cuts between the man and the fish, with the colour palette shifting dramatically from the dull greys of the building to vibrant yellows and blues in the fish tank. Silvennoinen employs colour expertly to suggest joy in the fish’s world, compared with the bleakness of the man’s world.

In the absence of much dialogue, Fish Legend makes good use of music to express itself, complementing and contributing to the visuals. The electronic drums are tight and ordered, in accordance with the rigid structure of the “real” world. The synths, however, swirl and shift over the top, lending an air of ethereality and wonder. In conjunction with one another, they form a kind of amalgamation of the world of the fish and the world of the man, subtly and smartly creating congruence between the two. This amalgamation is literalised as the man and fish talk at the film’s climax, and the man realises that they are one and the same.

Not much happens in Fish Legend, but each element of the film’s production layers and deepens the central premise. Focusing on a lone analogy allows Silvennoinen to really explore its connotations, suggesting its themes and ideas through sharp technical work. Fish Legend is a thoughtful and kind surprise, leaving the viewer with a sense of optimism. As the man leaves the office, the colours become as vibrant as those in the fish tank, and we are reminded of the glory of life outside of the cage. Silvennoinen may tell a single story, but he implicates all of life in its depiction.


'Fish Legend' was a film in consideration for Short Focus Film Festival 2020.


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