ANIMATION WORLD MAGAZINE - ISSUE 5.12 - MARCH 2001
There Once Was A Man Called Pjotr Sapegin
(continued from page 1)
He found success over the years and produced work for many performances. As Pjotr matured and came to understand his soul, he sought change. The strange power of desire carried him to the shores of Norway and her alluring landscape. At first, the harsh Nordic climate greeted the Russian with indifference. He began by cleansing the chewed remains left scattered on cheap china by the palettes of the people. Eventually Pjotr climbed the sweet thighs of fame and was permitted to feed, care and wipe the asses of Norwegian children before leading them to their lands of dreams, groans and smiles. As a tender of the youth of tomorrow, he did not come cheap, but soon the call of the soul grew louder than the cries of the children and Pjotr found himself immersed in the manual creating of art for magazines, theatre and whatever would enable his family to eat. On this new road Pjotr met the celluloid poets of the soul and turned toward the chemicals of sound and light to learn new means of finding life's cure. Realizing that the Norwegians, aside from Ivo Caprino, had relatively little experience making animation films, Pjotr, the virtuous, honest and pious, who had never animated in his life, spun that tangled web and next found himself standing with a stop-motion camera among the new voices of Norwegian moving images.
Sapegin had a new home, a new career, but no money. Fortunately for Sapegin the Olympics were in town. Realizing that there was now a pot of gold in the Norwegian cultural programme, the hungry Sapegin and a friend licked their lips and began dreaming of an animation series made with the fat bucks of the Olympics. The idea was to have a parallel Olympics with different creatures coming from all kinds of countries. Inspired by the ocean side aroma of a nearby seafood restaurant, the famished duo based their character on a "pink, shapeless, flexible, fresh, tasty" shrimp. Then they dumped the idea as it was too close to the paralympics (for special people) and took their delicious shrimp and turned him into Edvard. Edvard took his name from the composer Edvard Grieg, who while lacking the qualities of a genius, could compose some scintillating film scores. The wide range of emotions expressed in his work was perfectly suited to Sapegin's animation with its melodramatic reflections of Chaplin, Keaton and the other silent shadows from cinema's birth.
A scene from Edvard, Sapegin's first film, utilizing live-action and clay animation.
The premise of Edvard is simple. A Chaplinesque 'shrimp' wanders around the Nordic seascape adapting to the strange environment around him. Sapegin made five Edvard films and they all combine live-action and clay animation. Even in the first film, Edvard (1992), Sapegin's talents are apparent. Edvard meets a young woman and subsequently turns into everything he is feeling (heart, flowers, sculpture) for her. In the rather strange, The Naked Truth (1993), Edvard is introduced to the bare essentials of humanity as he encounters a group of nudists on the beach. During his adventure Edvard assumes the form of all the body parts he sees and also that of a hot dog... Unbearable Lightness of Longing is the most technically accomplished of the five films and foreshadows later films with Sapegin's detailed, multi-textured backgrounds. The backgrounds were created by painting on a mirror and leaving parts of the surface open to reflect other backgrounds. Edvard sees a beautiful woman fall asleep on the beach. Lonely, horny Edvard falls immediately in love and imagines ways to wow his sleeping beauty. Finally he builds a boat for the woman. She awakens, smiles and waves, but alas it is not Edvard she acknowledges but a beau in a boat. Once again Edvard is left alone.
Seemingly taken from Sapegin's Russian backyard, Stand In (1995) has Edvard jumping into action as he reads about a statue of a baby being stolen. With echoes of Starewicz's The Mascot, Edvard takes to the streets and tries to replace the statue. He assumes various forms until he hears the roar of the audience. But we soon see the applause is for the return of the statue, which subsequently leaves Edvard crushed...literally. In the final film, The Cruise Ship, Edvard dreams that he is on a passing ocean liner and chasing the dame of his dreams. Unfortunately the lass is too busy fleeing the perverted come-ons of a hapless old timer to notice Edvard. Seeing that his dream is bothered by the half-soused tourist, he sabotages the man's libidinous plans and sends him fleeing. Just as Edvard seeks to comfort the woman, a handsome stranger comes to take his dream away. From here the director inflicts the utmost cruelty on the shrimp by attaching him to the drunk's ass where he is slammed against walls before being flushed down the toilet. Fortunately it is all a dream.
Silent comedy serves as a major influence in the construction of the Edvard series, although at times Edvard's randiness seems more attuned to the primal antics of English comedian Benny Hill. Like Chaplin and Keaton's characters, Edvard is a perceived unsung hero or loser. Of course, Edvard is additionally handicapped by the reality that he is a clay sea creature who is about the size of my middle finger. Like the great silent comics, Edvard wants desperately to fit in to the surrounding society. He wants nothing more than to be loved and accepted for what and who he is. Unfortunately no one can even see him. Sharing more with Chaplin's tramp, Edvard is even willing, unlike Keaton's character, to shed his identity to gain acceptance.
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