Fresh From the Festivals: November 1999's Film Reviews
Also from the National Film and Television School is a puppet animation by Charmaine Choo. Another contemplative work, this film focuses on a woman who reflects on her own sexual identity and attempts to alter it, only to meet with ostracism from those around her. Lying on a bank somewhere, the woman's form is captured in a series of tightly framed shots, accentuating elements of her face and body. She later moves to a movie theater whose interior seems strongly influenced by the Brothers Quay in Street of Crocodiles, with its oddly constructed, most shadowy, spaces. On the theater's screen is a beautiful woman much like herself, who is also depicted in shots of her fragmented face and body, and particularly in close shots of her bare breasts. An audience of anonymous viewers watch the film silently. At her home, the woman tosses restlessly on her bed, then moves to a mirror and begins to reshape her body by scratching at her breasts and lower body. When she returns to the public and her desexualized body is `discovered' by another woman and a group of loitering men, she is shunned.
This quite literal description of the film really does not do justice to the beauty of its images, which tell the story without dialog. Visually, the film is quite elaborate, with fabrics draped lightly throughout the sets, and lighting creating an introspective feeling appropriate to an analysis of one's own identity. Also effective is a choice to use jointed wooden puppets for the figures of the women, creating a great contrast between their relatively soft, lovely clothed exteriors and the hard `reality' of their underlying forms, which are beautiful in a hard, functional way. Like the film of her classmate, Lucy Lee, Choo's Peaches has appeared and won awards in festivals around the world. And, like the other film, it is an impressive example of the work students are producing at the college level.
Heiko Lueg's 3D animation, created with computer-generated images, is more cartoonish in nature. It tells the story of a mouse-like lighthouse keeper, Nils, and his assistant, Crock, a weathercock who can control the wind. Nils is happily surprised to have a visitor, a toad-like creature called an Onk, whose boat has sunk. However, trouble comes when an evil `beast' in the form of a witch, who seems intent on destroying everyone she meets, follows the Onk to the lighthouse post. As one might expect, the film's story involves efforts to get rid of this nasty being before she can complete her evil business. Dialogue is in German, though English subtitles over the letterbox area are available.
Here again is an accomplished student production, this time a diploma film from the Filmakademie Baden-Württemberg. Lueg's background as a puppeteer and graphic design student seem to have influenced his work. Aesthetically, the film is typical of many CGI films in employing round, puffy characters who tend to float through space. However, there are several points where the aesthetics become much more interesting. Silhouettes and the use of powdery or cloud-like wisps of matter add a nice touch, as do relatively opaque images of the ocean. Also interesting are several effects in the film, such as the reflection of the Onk as it pounds desperately on the lighthouse door. The film also excels in terms of the development of its story, which is not forgotten in the pursuit of technical accomplishments. The film's color design, mostly warm tones, and lighting create an interesting environment for the action. The end title sequence is also particularly well designed, with images from the film appearing throughout.