Every Thursday, Chris Robinson takes a look at films from animation’s past. Today's screening is The Runt (2006) by Andreas Hykade.
Like an old blues/folk song, Andreas Hykade’s The Runt (2006) is deceptively simple. A boy lives on a farm with his uncle and father. They breed and kill rabbits. A rabbit gives birth. The boy wants to keep the runt. The uncle agrees but says that after a year he must kill it. The boy agrees. Time passes. The two ‘runts’ bond but the day finally arrives when they must go the way of their fates. And so it goes.
Of course nothing is really that simple. Rumbling beneath the verses are a variety of themes ranging from loss of: innocence, ritual, and responsibility, and that familiar refrain we will all sing one day: death.
The Runt is the final part of Hykade’s 'country' trilogy which includes We Lived in Grass (1995) and Ring of Fire (2000). The trilogy deals with Hykade’s childhood in the Bavarian countryside. “I remember the country as a dark and vital place,” says Hykade. “It shaped me and inspired me. As my work is about personal experience it was just natural to do these films.”
Hykade had no plans to do a trilogy, but after We Lived in Grass, he felt there still some issues left unsaid about his protagonist’s sexual desires and violent tendencies. “I did Ring of Fire to try and dig deeper into the sexual aspects. When I saw the two films together I got the impression that something was still missing. So I did The Runt about killing.
There are two magnificent shots in The Runt that elevate the film’s spiritual meaning and provide that link between the personal and collective. Throughout the film, the sun appears as a symbol of life. In one shot, Hykade begins with a shot of the sun but pulls back the camera to reveal that we are actually inside the rabbit. In this simple, beautiful shot, Hykade visualizes the soul and gives life to the rabbit. The second shot comes just before the rabbit is killed. The screen is entirely white until Hykade’s camera again pulls back to reveal that we are actually looking deep inside the rabbit’s eye. Without using a single word, this image screams the runt’s final aching plea for life.