ANIMATION WORLD MAGAZINE - ISSUE 5.12 - MARCH 2001
There Once Was A Man Called Pjotr Sapegin
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Ippolita the Little Amazon uses a combination of cut-outs and clay to present a dynamic stage design.
One can't help but think back to Sapegin's rocky landscapes and the discombobulated stones of his youth. Just as the yard was continually transforming with body parts appearing and reappearing, Edvard is a constantly shifting figure in search of a stable centre of being. As in Keaton's films, landscapes are ever present in the Edvard series and play a pivotal secondary character dictating the direction of Edvard. At the same time, Edvard shares many characteristics with his creator, notably the fact that both were new to their environment and learning to adapt to and understand the surrounding culture. Edvard's story is very much Pjotr's; although to my knowledge Pjotr was never flushed or crushed...well not literally anyway.
Despite Edvard's modest popularity in Norway, it is rapidly apparent by the second or third film that he is a one-dimensional character. Edvard's chameleon transformations and Benny Hill hard-ons could only carry the films so far. On the way out, tired of being mocked and tortured by his creator, the shrimp flashed a final explicit pantomime to his creator. And so Edvard now rests, we hope, in peace.
Edvard served Sapegin well. He worked on the series from 1992-1996 and the films afforded Sapegin the opportunity to develop and hone his animation skills. More importantly the sacrifices of poor Edvard temporarily fed and clothed the Sapegin family.
A New Myth
Given Sapegin's inexperience, it is no surprise that his work environment was rather primitive. Working on 16mm for his first film, Sapegin constructed his own glass table. "I had window frames, you know winter window frames, so I just piled up twelve layers and it was great. It was the only time I didn't get any reflections on those window frames. It was so easy and actually fast. So I thought, 'Yep, that's probably my thing to do.'" Sapegin first began experimenting with the glass table for his film, Ippolita the Little Amazon.
Ippolita emerged out of a failed Hercules project. With a stream of rejections and a 'God knows how I needed money then" reality, Sapegin divided the Greek hero into a girl (Ippolita) and a goat (Esmeralda). What is instantly striking about Ippolita is the influence of Sapegin's stage design. Using a combination of cut-outs and clay, the wild, roaring backgrounds explode within the frame lending an expressive theatrical element to the film. Having been abandoned by their tribe (which is visually represented through a jolting fusion of blacks and reds), Ippolita and Esmeralda journey through ancient Greece. Along the way they encounter a variety of Herculean-like labours. A chameleon-like bull, that despite being killed by calm Esmeralda's arrow, pursues the duo in different forms. They are saved by the mighty hand of Appolon, the god of light and music. After being forced from Hesperide's garden, they encounter Atlas who offers to get them golden apples if they will hold the world up. After ditching the worm-infested pommes, they repay Appolon's favour by saving him from a beast. The duo then carry on what Appolon calls, the beginning of their journey. Their journey ends as it begins.
Sapegin's work is casual and sober. We wonder whether we wander through a life in progress. Ippolita and Esmeralda walk through life unaware. Heroism arrives serenely. A serendipitous greeting unrecognized.
Ippolita is a keen inversion and parody of a masculine, virile world. Sapegin re-constructs the masculine world of Greek myths through the unassuming, assured eyes of a woman giving her a silent strength. Ippolita remains an important film for Sapegin because it was his first experience with a female character: "It was the first time I tried to work with a female main character and I absolutely loved it." Not really knowing women by definition, Sapegin found himself less in control of his character than usual. Sapegin found this manner of working exciting and liberating in the ways that it led him toward new ideas and storylines.
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