This animated documentary, directed by Jonathan Hodgson, opens with the statement, ‘Most people’s mums are mad. Mine’s got schizophrenia’. This text crafts the perspective of a child by adopting adolescent rhetoric. The tone of such a statement is carried through an extraordinary series of parallel narratives in which adults recount their experiences in childhood dealing with parents suffering from paranoid delusions. A varied set of richly textured and naïve illustrative styles assist the visualisation of a number of accounts where children doubt the natural authority granted to a parent.
A particularly fascinating aspect of the subject matter is revealed when the interviewees recall their beliefs that a parents delusions may have been real. When we are developing it is very easy to take anything a guardian tells us literally. It must be a slow process of realisation for a child to learn not to trust their first teacher in this world. A kid would start to decipher for themselves that their parent’s fantastical notions may be being generated by the distortions of mental illness; splitting reality into tangled delusions which are disengaged from rational analysis, but rather supported by a complex web of symbolic meaning and tenuous evidence. One would hope that such a disruption to natural authority does not have a long lasting affect on an individual’s development.
Siri Mechior and Tim Webb’s contribution to the animated portion of the film is invaluable. Something engaging is sparked when distinctively two-dimensional drawings skid into three-dimensions. Lines shift, scattering our understanding of space as the viewpoint rotates around the modernist imagery, causing the destruction of the flat plane. Occasionally these moving pictures are digitally encrusted to great effect in undulating binary distortions. At other points one can feel the materiality of physical mark making, the rippling paper jostles to create surface boil. In addition Hodgson’s sound design is gripping. The disembodied eyes that swing to the sound of creaking wood conjures surrealist notions of juxtaposition.
The live action scenes do not maintain the standard of excellence I attribute to the animated sequences. Certainly the over dubbing of the actors voices was a formal choice, one designed to unnerve and disrupt the default expectation of an audience. However such disharmony is so corrupting that the gathering in the garden scene feels like something out of a continental soap opera.
As a whole the film is fascinating both visually and in terms of subject. The Arts Council of England and Channel 4 funded this Sherbet film back in 2001. Currently the short has just under a thousand plays on Vimeo. Lets hope it’s audience continues to expand online.