Entomology and Animation: A Portrait of An Early Master Ladislaw Starewicz
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We dissolve into a realm of insects and animals where the lily is honored as a personification of springtime joy. Insects fly and dance around her petals during the day, and frogs sing her praises in the evening. A clan of beetles, however, isn't too delighted with their place in the insect kingdom. Feeling alienated from the rest, they decide that they deserve to occupy more land. They form an army and move against their neighbors, ravaging the land as they march. Approaching the river that borders the last territory to be conquered, the beetles encounter the lily. Standing tall and proud the lily refuses to make way for the beetles. They repeat their order for her to withdraw. She does not budge. The beetles forge ahead, plowing through the lily and laying waste to the rest of the land. In the process, though, the land becomes a desert, and consequently uninhabitable for the beetles. Nonetheless, when spring returns the lily is reborn, and the land begins to rejuvenate.

Starewicz's symbolism is quite specific in this film, yet he leaves plenty of room for personal interpretation within themes that reflect the cycles of joy and sadness, peace and war, and life and death. Even at this relatively early stage in his career one can make out a developed point-of-view and style: common characters making consequential decisions to affect the outcome of personal and/or social hardship.

Re-Occuring Themes
While thoughtful in his political musings, Starewicz could just as easily return to his childhood innocence and render parables in a purely playful fashion. The Insects' Christmas (1913) and Winter Carousel (1958) suspended his memories on film in timeless, glossy reflection, framing his career with passionate, youthful nostalgia.

In the former we are presented with an idyllic vision of the Christmas season. Father Christmas, a Christmas tree ornament, gathers together all the creatures of the forest to celebrate the holiday. One by one they join the festivities: Ladybug, Miss Dragonfly, Mr. Frog and Beetles too. They dance joyously, ice skate and build a monumental Christmas tree, of which toy dolls also join in to help. Eventually gifts are exchanged and Father Christmas bids them goodnight.

Not necessarily intending to build a story from his memories, he simply preserved a mood and a perception of a time when community and friendship weren't taken for granted, sharing was commonplace and surprises were always a celebrated, magical event.

The latter film, Winter Carousel, produced seven years before his death, is the reprise to The Insects' Christmas. It basically reiterates the same sentiments, but with a much more refined animation style. Years of work give a practiced precision to the dances, gestures and expressions that his animals convey in this later period. Insects are few, with more dynamic puppet animals and a snowman taking center stage. (I suspect the lack of insects has to do with the technical progression of animation techniques. Stop-motion puppetry had become extremely articulate -- Harryhausen models being the prime example -- and it was now easy for puppets to speak with a simple glance or twitch of the mouth. These nuances didn't lend themselves as well to the types of insect puppets he built.) The animals -- a rabbit, bear and lamb -- play hide and seek, parade in the snow, spin on an ice carousel and dance with glee (happy-happy, joy-joy). Spring arrives and the Snowman melts, but nature is in bloom, and squirrels and birds join in on the fun. Soon they all dance to the musical stylings of a grasshopper and his fiddle. The purity and freshness of this fantasyland fuels their elated state of happiness... Okay, it's not this sappy, but the levity of this project was made to balance the gravity of others.

Starewicz brought to his work a balance of life's complexities. He understood that good and bad walk hand in hand, and not without subtlety. If one film portrayed darkness, another must deliver light. No matter the subject, he could provide equilibrium between the reality of harsh situations, and the delight of carefree moments. Often his films encompassed both ends of the spectrum in a single fable. This becomes more evident in later films (such as The Mascot) that he produced after his move to Paris, where the environment allowed for much greater artistic freedom than the new Communist regime.

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