Inside Encounters #1- ANI 1: Power to the Puppets

The Bungled Child (La Ravadeuse) by Simon Filliot

The bipolar coupling between the puppet and its creator has been igniting the energy that nurtures the animated film world, a universe of the living and the revived, for over a hundred years. Animations are no longer seen as fruits of deception, animating the inanimate; we now realise that creations are living a life of their own.

Effort (Switzerland), a beautifully crafted stop-motion, shows us very human gestures on an unlikely figure. Meanwhile the Swiss Fly Mill (Estonia) deals with this topic maybe in the most obvious way: a cunning visualisation of an eccentric porcelain doll’s black humour in the form of rhythmic condescendence. The characters are either taking flight from or seeking their maker and we see the social fabric woven out of the real and the imaginary. The programme includes a variety of inventive, distinctive characters and controversial themes, which are united by notions of power and freedom of decision-making.

Bydlo (Canada), which won Best Animated Film at the Clermont-Ferrand International Short Film Festival, employs decay as a starting point. It is inspired by a music piece of the same name from the cherished Pictures at an Exhibition by Modest Mussorgsky. An ox in heavy chains and overpowered faceless men living in the Bronze Age are enslaved by hard work and dramatic tuba solos. Yet the film is not a mere interpretation of the late maestro’s composition; exquisite sound details by the foley artist triumph over the music. Cracks in the spine, clicks of wooden constructions and the splashing of glistening mud evoke the violent nature of animation in an unreservedly new way.

Another unbelievably beautiful film, The Bungled Child (France), elicits the strongest emotions with character developments that are usually hard to accomplish in puppet animation. A pair of Siamese twins will do anything to stay together. Inspirational dolls of burlap and gauze, as well as feelings of loathing and repulsion, play with shadows, light and pure amazement in this aesthetic delight. The film carries artistic value that has received wide international recognition, including the Dragon Award for New Talent.

ANI 1: Power to the Puppets, which is the first of the two puppet animation programmes at Encounters this year (the second is ANI 5: No Strings Attached), brings wondrous worlds to our sight, where puppets gain power, or at least try to achieve it. Whether they succeed is up to you to decide.

By Emilie Toomela