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Animators Unearthed – Ruth Lingford

Every Monday – or thereabouts – AWN’s Chris Robinson serves up ‘Animators Unearthed,’ a short profile of prominent and not-so-prominent indie animators.

‘The Old Fools’

Since making her debut animation in 1989, U.K.-born independent animator Ruth Lingford has worked with a variety of media ranging from computers and live-action to drawn animation and photographs. Lingford has taken poems, fairytales and biblical stories and made them her own by using the core of those sources to pose difficult and personal questions about sexuality, desire, death, aging, violence and identity. Her films make us squirm so that we might think.

Drawing inspiration from the biblical story of Judith and Holofernes, Pleasures of War (1997) is a raunchy tale about a heroic woman who sacrifices herself to save her people. Using a woodcut style, the heavy contrast between bleached whites with black is accompanied by a touch of yellow and a brilliant bold red that gives the film a stark, sensuous brutality. Live-action footage of war occasionally stains the background, giving the film a timeless, universal context.

The Old Fools (2002), Philip Larkin’s ode to death and decay, is Lingford’s most calm and gentle film. As the images shift from footage of elderly people to icons of their fading existence, Lingford’s mixture of live-action footage and drawn animation is bathed in a warm sea of soothing blues. In one scene, images of dentures, pills, glasses, slippers and other “tools of the trade” appear as a deck of cards in a game of memory. Only now, memory is no longer just a game, it is a failing fight for life.

Bob Geldof’s reading of the poem is a masterpiece of restraint. His voice is warm and hypnotic. It soothes us as we are led towards oblivion. The unutterable is uttered. Death was never more peaceful.

Speaking of death… we come (pun) to Little Deaths (2010), an animated existential black comic erotic-ish documentary that attempts to visualize various individual’s descriptions of orgasmic sensations. You might recognize the voices of a few animators and never look at them quite the same way.

Chris Robinson's picture

A well-known figure in the world of independent animation, writer, author & curator Chris Robinson is the Artistic Director of the Ottawa International Animation Festival.