The people behind each contribution to the Netflix animated series “Love, Death & Robots” there are hardly any limits to their creativity. And so the result is not only very diverse in terms of animation style, but also in terms of the plot of the completed short films. Here you can find straight horror action as well as playful sci-fi comedies, melancholic space adventures – or whatever Fantasy stories that play with mythology and metaphors like “Jibaro” from season 3.
The 17-minute film is likely to be the episode from the new season, which causes the greatest confusion among the audience, on the one hand because of the symbolically charged and completely wordless plot, but also because of the idiosyncratic staging full of fast camera movements, cuts and blurring . So let’s try an explanation…
In “Jibaro” we see how a group of conquistadors (those explorers who conquered large parts of America as colonies in the 16th and 17th centuries) set up camp by a lake. Among them is the eponymous deaf soldier, who finds a golden scale in the lake and eagerly pockets it. This is observed by a siren from the water – who then appears and in all her jeweled splendor with a seductive dance and her screams drives the people on the shore into a downright madness.
In a desperate attempt, driven by greed, to reach the creature from the water, many of the men lured kill each other, the rest drown in the lake. However, Jibaro is spared because he does not hear the siren song and finally flees. Having apparently never met anyone who could resist her fateful advances, the siren is fascinated by the stranger. Believing that he is different from the others, she begins to follow him curiously and even lies down next to him when he is resting.
However, after he wakes up, she runs away in terror, while Jibaro finally realizes that the golden scale he encountered earlier is from her body. When he then tracks her down again, the two approach each other. The siren dances close to Jibaro, but he pulls another scale out of her body, causing her to bleed. The two end up exchanging kisses, which hurt Jibaro because of the siren’s jeweled mouth – until the soldier finally knocks his opponent down. Seized by greed, he brutally rips all her jewelry from the unconscious woman’s body and then throws her down a waterfall, bleeding to death.
On this way, she ends up again a little later in the lake from the beginning, from where her blood spreads – and also into the surrounding rivers up to Jibaro, who drinks from the same water with his valuable booty in his luggage. Since the blood apparently has healing powers, the conquistador can suddenly hear for the first time in his life – which initially causes him to panic because of the many new impressions.
In his confusion, he is finally driven back to the lake, where the resurrected siren emerges from the water again. Shocked that she was so abused and is suddenly so exposed, she finds her voice again rather hesitantly – which now even Jibaro with his newly gained hearing can no longer resist. And so, like so many others before him, he ends up at the bottom of the lake…
Once you look at the historical context, a statement of “Jibaro” that is closely linked to the plot is pretty obvious. The lake and the siren stand for the earlier cultures and people of America, who were shamelessly exploited by the invaders from other countries for their own enrichment. In this context it is also suggested that the siren only attacked the conquistadors after a provocation. So she only begins her deadly dance after seeing Jibaro pocket one of her scales.
This analogy also offers a possible explanation for the lake being shaped like a heart, apart from the riches, water was actually a key part of the existence of the former American peoples. At the same time, this heart shape also represents a connection to another level of the story, when Jibaro has revealed his true face to the siren and a little later her blood spills into the water. Her heart literally bleeds when she realizes that Jibaro is just as driven by greed as his comrades-in-arms.
The fact that he has this name of all things can also be seen as an ironic comment. The word Jibaro, which comes from Puerto Rico, describes traditional farmers there who cultivate the land in harmony with nature – the opposite of someone stealing from the country for their own gain.
At the same time, “Jibaro” is also a metaphor for modern toxic relationships. Director Alberto Mielgo recently explained this personally, who by the way only won an Oscar this year for his animated short film “The Windshield Wiper” and already for the visually similar “LoveDeath & Robots season 1 highlight episode The Eyewitness.
“[Es ist] a relationship between hunters that is very sensual as it is based on mutual attraction for the wrong reasons,” Mielgo told the magazine Animation World out of. “I like it when you don’t know who’s really the good guy and who’s the bad guy. That creates strong feelings.”
For the “Jibaro” maker himself, both parties in the extraordinary relationship of his story are responsible for being torn into the abyss. Sometimes you sympathize more with one side, sometimes more with the other, but in the end they both go to work extremely cruelly. On the one hand, the siren already has countless lives on its conscience (even if it sometimes acted more, sometimes less in self-defense). Jibaro, on the other hand, blinded by greed and ruthlessly assaults the protector of the lake in a symbolic rape.
In the course of this, Mielgo also sees his film as Antithesis to the classic heroic story, in which the main characters emerge as better people from their journey: “There is no betterment here. In fact, just the opposite is the case. Both end up being the worst versions of themselves. And they learn no lesson. Both lose.”
The already depressing story takes on an even more bitter note with this statement, but also cements its status as one of the highlights of the third “LoveDeath & Robots season.