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'The House of Small Cubes' - a short, silent reminder that regardless of rising rivers, home is home

This animated short makes up in emotion what it lacks in dialogue, touching beautifully and silently on the harrowing effects of global warming. By Leah Roberts.

The simple story to this 2008 Japanese film is of an old man who is forced to continue building new levels onto his house after the area is completely flooded.

After he drops his pipe through to the bottom of the house, he swims down to retrieve it, and ends up reliving the experiences of each separate floor of his home. The film is completely void of dialogue, but the charming style of animation and the rich detail in the memories of the man’s life, paired with a moving soundtrack, ensures that the audience will shed a few tears after this 12-minute-long film.


The film also seems to touch on the idea that relationships are the most important part of life, not material goods, as the further up the house rises the fewer things the old man has. Yet it is still the lack of human contact that hits home the hardest. The film acts as a subtle reminder to get back in touch with those that have been drifted away from, as well as seeing the value in loving relationships.

The cause of the man’s troubles is that the sea levels continue to rise, and so when everyone else sees the area as no longer viable, the old man is clinging onto what he used to have and the memories he has there. There is a real sense of sympathy for the protagonist of the story, probably due to the fact that his story, albeit the house made of cubes, is so relatable.

a reminder that no one should have to be forced out of their home because of natural disasters or the consequences of global warming

The old man’s house seems to be the only one in the area; he lives a solitary life, watching the television and smoking his beloved pipe. However, when the audience looks back on his life, an entire town is revealed beneath the rising waters, which everyone has been forced to abandon due to the threat of flooding.

Despite his extremely isolated life, the protagonist doesn’t want to leave because of all the memories that the house holds, and so continues to build this impossibly tall tower – hardly big enough for a single bed and a desk – just so he doesn’t have to move. It works as a reminder to the audience that no one should have to be forced out of their home because of natural disasters or the consequences of global warming, due to the emotional trauma this can cause.

The film really brings to light the human effects of global warming, especially with countries such as Fiji experiencing the very same thing portrayed in this animation in recent times. With reports from the 23rd Climate Change Conference highlighting the massive costs that the rise of global warming will cause, and the huge number of people that will be displaced, it has become far more apparent that we need to be more vigilant in protecting our environment while we can.

Picture credits: YouTube / André Dieter Jr.

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