Wednesday, 30 March 2011


At last, I have a script. I hope you like it . . .  comments are very welcome. Now I just need to animate it!

The Writer

Our hero is a man made entirely from wood with fingers in the form of pencils.

Once there was a man with very unusual hands.

People mocked him and he was ashamed so he hid them out of sight whenever he could.

He felt lonely and set apart from the world until one day he met someone who changed all of that.

The writer stands alone on a busy street. A woman steps out of the door of a neglected bookshop. At first glance she looks just like any other shopper, but as she steps into the light she is revealed to be made entirely from the pages of books.

Margarita was a woman of great beauty and wisdom and, just like him, she knew how it felt to stand out from the crowd.

She drops one of her books and as the writer picks it up for her she sees his hands.

The writer and Margarita fall in love and begin to live together in a small apartment in the eaves of a tall house.

And it was through Margarita that the man found a use for his unusual hands. He began to write: page upon page every day, spinning a story full of joy and heartbreak, mystery and intrigue. For what better way to captivate a woman who has stories in her soul?

But the man’s unusual gift would not last forever: his hands could only give him so many words.

The writer’s pencil-fingers go blunt over time, and he must sharpen them with a knife in order to keep writing.

He couldn’t bear the thought of having nothing left to offer Margarita. So he poured his heart and soul into the book
– a testament to his love for her -
and when the last word was written he left.

Destitute and heartbroken the man found himself on the street. People walked by with barely a glance so in desperation he tried the only way he knew to capture their attention.

A young child is bored as his mother gossips with a friend above his head. The writer tries to entertain him with a story.

To his amazement it worked, and he realized that he still had the power to tell stories.

The child is captivated and before long crowds of people are coming from miles around to hear him tell his tales.

But not everything thing he had lost could not be found again so easily.

The writer knocks on the door to his old apartment clutching some flowers. It is opened by portly housewife, who draws herself up in indignation at his cheek. Startled the writer drops his flowers and flees back down the stairs.

He could never forgive himself for leaving the one person he loved and, even though she wasn’t there to hear them, his stories were still all for Margarita.

However, as we know, Margarita’s beauty was matched only by her wisdom. 

News of the writer’s fame has reached Margarita and she buys a train ticket.

And she’d always known that the stories were not just in his hands. 

Now that he'd found that out for himself she decided to give him a second chance.

The writer stands on a street corner entertaining a crowd. He finishes his story and people begin to move off. But as the crowd clears one person remains – it is Margarita.

And besides, Margarita never could resist a good story.

Monday, 28 March 2011

Alma - by Rodrigo Blaas

I saw this film and I think it absolutely nails a successful storyline for a short animated film.

On the face of it it is a very simple tale: a small child is fascinated by a doll made in her own image, but when she touches the doll she falls under a sinister spell and is trapped inside the doll's body. Immobile on a shelf she can look around but is powerless to act and it turns out that she's not the first - and won't be the last.

The shortness and simplicity of the story is ideally suited to this format. However, despite its simplicity  the story taps into a rich well of classic mythological and fairytale themes: the loss of autonomy through bewitchment, the hazards of too much curiosity, the hidden dangers of desirable objects, the pitfalls of stepping off a well trodden path into the unknown. (This is redolent of Joseph Campbell's theory of the Monomyth whereby themes from mythology form the basis of an overarching narrative that occurs across different cultures and eras.)

Similarly Blass draws on a theme from the horror cannon whereby childhood iconography (a clown, toys or a trike for example) is subverted and made all the more sinister because of its original, more innocent, association.

Finally, the twist at the end is beautifully realised; causes the viewer to reexamine earlier events from a different perspective and, crucially, leaves us with a sense that the story continues beyond the end of the film.

A temptation when making a short is to breathlessly cram 90 minutes of storytelling into 5. What Rodrigo Blaas does so brilliantly with Alma is to tell a story that can be summarised in 20 seconds, but is so rich in the dark allegories of other timeless narratives that we're drawn into the world of the story and are left wondering what might possibly come next.

Passionate Dialogue

I was introduced to Jan Švankmajer by a psychiatrist rather than an animator and, in keeping with this, what I love about this film is the brilliant portrayal of human emotion.

It is an example of the medium and the message being perfectly in tune. 

Švankmajer conveys sexual passion brilliantly. Through his inspired use of claymation he captures the sensation of losing track of the boundaries between your individual bodies, the moments of clarity that punctuate this and the feeling that your body has taken over and is expressing a more primitive drive, pushing your rational self to the side whilst it does so.

Similarly the animation captures the essence of the anger between the lovers as they, both literally & metaphorically, tear each other apart.

The beauty of animation is is ability to stylise or exaggerate its subject matter, to portray the impossible. Švankmajer shows that this doesn't mean animation has to be escapist, for children, or comedic. Used well, animation can convey truths about the human condition in a deeply profound way.