ANIMATION WORLD MAGAZINE - ISSUE 5.12 - MARCH 2001
There Once Was A Man Called Pjotr Sapegin
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Adapting his stage experience, Sapegin creates some stunning noirish chiaroscuro lit backgrounds that seem taken from a Hitchcock or Orson Welles film. Combined with Randall Myers noir tinged score, the backgrounds add a playful and ironic atmosphere of tension and uncertainty.
Perversity aside, One Day a Man Bought a House is a tale of misunderstanding. Sapegin slams conventions and expectations turning the inappropriate or unnatural into new possibilities. Not that I suggest that we all run out and start humping animals, but instead we should look beneath the surface and embrace the film as a light tale that questions our perceptions. Things we take for granted should not be taken for granted.
The Saltmill is a tale based on a misunderstanding, which leads a young man to discover his independence.
Sapegin worked on One Day and The Saltmill concurrently. Once again, bills were outstanding. "It was such a bad day and I said, 'Fuck a duck, we have to do once more like we did on Mons,' four weeks later everybody got paid, and we just kept rolling. So that's how it started, as usual." Once again, Sapegin returned to a folk tale for his story source. The script was written by Studio Magica colleague, Lars Tommerbakke, but both he and Sapegin worked on the story together. On one level, The Saltmill is a tale about how the sea became salted, but deeper still it is about the accidental discovery of independence and identity. In a small town, all the salt is owned by a greedy old man. The Sea has no salt. The town has no salt. A young man digs for salt everyday. He is a 'yes' man who works only for a sandwich...unsalted of course. While digging the man discovers a cave and within it a salt troll. The man trades his sandwich to the troll for control of the salt. The man hastens immediately to the local tavern and offers the patrons salt for their fish and chips. Still being the 'yes' man, the idiot savant gives the rich man all of the salt and tells him the secret to owning the mill. The greedy man sets sail in a boat, says the magic words and drowns in the sea as the salt pours into his boat.
Sapegin finds folk tales a challenge to work with because they are constructed on different moral issues, so they must be twisted around. "If you really look at folk tales, they are completely pre-Christian, they came from pre-moral time, and to tell the story which will communicate with our society, you cannot just tell the folk tale because people will get absolutely confused with what you are actually saying." By altering the ending of the film, The Saltmill, like One Day, became a tale based on misunderstanding. The young man in Saltmill finds his independence completely by accident and despite his utter stupidity. In Sapegin's surreal fairy tale world, there are no grand gestures, no mythical heroes, no profound logic, only everymen who, like Beckett characters inadvertently bump into solutions.
In the Corner of the World -- Sapegin's animated film based on Shakespeare's sonata number 18.
Another New Beginning
Sapegin recently left Studio Magica, a studio he co-founded upon arriving in Norway, with to form Zoofilm. "It became a little boring and I felt we were moving towards different cities. We had a big studio. It became a bit heavy and I also want to work with experimental things and they want me to do television series." Zoofilm was formed in May 1999 with two other partners who, surprisingly, are not animation people. "I have to prove to them that this genre can exist next to live-action. I have to prove that I'm capable of doing things and it's basically great."
The first Zoofilm project, In the Corner of the World, is a short Shakespeare "pick-up" film. In the Corner returns to the style of Edvard using clay characters on a manipulated live-action background. The concept behind In the Corner was to give back the original meaning to Shakespeare's poetry which for all its high brow reception, was basically written to score with chicks. "In the Corner of the World was an extreme experiment. It came from an idea after I saw Shakespeare In Love, which I liked very much and everybody else hated it absolutely, my partners hated it, my son hated it also, because it was wimpy. I thought it was great."
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