Phallaina, de Marietta Ren

2 min

Phallaina, by Marietta Ren

This work is at a pivotal point between film, cartoon and illustration, inspired by cognitive sciences and mythology. It recounts the personal adventure of a young woman whose life does not turn out as it was destined to.

© Small Bang

From animation to the scrolling graphic novel

Phallaina (2016) is Marietta Ren’s first creation in the digital graphic novel world.

The author is an image animator and script writer who graduatedfrom the École des Gobelins school of visual communication and arts. She has worked on the films Ernest et Célestine (2012) and Avril et le Monde truqué (2015). She has also worked with Eugény Couture for the work Je suis deux, and shown her work as an illustrator and animator in various exhibitions in France and abroad.


A hybrid storytelling tool

Phallaina is the story of a young woman, Audrey, who has suffered from hallucinatory fits since she was young, during which she sees white whales. A neurologist diagnosed that she has a « physeter », a structural brain anomaly that enables those who have it to hold their breath for a long time. The young woman therefore decides to take part in a clinical study to try and reduce the fits.

Phallaina is a hybrid storytelling tool, made up of both a scrolling graphic novel for tablets and a monumental installation consisting of a 115-metre long fresco with a sound system. The user walks around with an app, and hears the story as they move forward.


A technological challenge

Marietta Ren discovered the whales at Tadoussac during a trip to Canada, and starting thinking about a project featuring the marine mammal’s poetic symbolism. Passionate about mythology and neuroscience, she therefore created « the myth of the Phallainas ».

The artist took inspiration from the Bayeux Tapestry and illustrated Japanese scrolls, and looked to digital and the scrolling graphic novel to create this work, which was originally intended to be published on paper.

Production took five years. Phallaina has been designed like a long tracking shot in film, 1600 tablet screens long, relying on long horizontal scrolling without frames. Depth and movement effects have been created using the parallax technique.


International recognition

Phallaina is the first « scrolling graphic novel » in the world and has been downloaded more than 80,000 times.

The work was launched at the Angoulême International Comics Festival in January 2016, and was also a finalist that year in the Webby Awards, up against Marvel, and received the « Best Digital Comic » award at the New Media Film Festival in Los Angeles.

Phallaina also received an award at the Peabody Awards, in 2017. The fresco itself was shown in Angoulême, Comicon in Naples and at the Scopitone festival in Nantes.

The Institut français and the project

Phallaina by Marietta Ren is presented as part of « Machines à bulles », an exhibition dedicated to innovative books produced by the Institut français and touring internationally across the French cultural network abroad.

It is also part of the selection available on, a platform that collects and promotes works falling under the umbrella of innovative books.