Every Monday, Chris Robinson serves up Animators Unearthed, a brief introduction to prominent and not-so-prominent indie animators. Today he explores the work of Jonathan Hodgson.
The work of UK animator Jonathan Hodgson is consistently inconsistent in the sense that you know each film will be unique, thoughtful, and yet, unlike his previous work. When Feeling My Way (1997) was first released it felt like a smack of fresh air. On the surface, it’s just about a guy walking to a friend’s house, but in Hodgson’s deft mind it becomes a portrait of our congested conscious and unconscious mind as a jam of thoughts, feelings, observations, distractions, judgements, worries all cram for a split second of acknowledgement. It’s a celebration of walking or our ‘weirdness’ and obsessions…and really of the experience of just being in the world.
Hodgson followed that up with The Man with the Beautiful Eyes (2000), a gentle and striking adaptation of a Charles Bukowski poem that contrasts the naïve and beautifully unfiltered perceptions of children against the more knowing yet harsher and less forgiving views of adults. The children, however are not blinded by experience and judgements, they find beauty in apparent sadness and ugliness of the man. The parents view might be right but the children’s take is more tolerant, humane and thoughtful. TThe children see what the adults have forgotten.
Using real interviews with three children of schizophrenics, Camouflouge (2002) explores the painful and bizarre effects that living with someone with a mental illness has on a child, where you can grow up normalizing the abnormal (oh, mom’s just out vacuuming the lawn again). It’s also about giving voice to the hushed so that we can push stigmas and fears and ignorance to the side in favour of compassion, discussion, understanding and release.
Compassion is at the root of the Hodgson’s work. Throughout his films, he tries to navigate the complexities of the human mind and soul, to uncover the things we fear (addiction, illness, other people) so that we might find the human in the inhuman.