Review of ‘Caldera’, by Evan Viera

It is not often one comes across a CGI film with such a consistently rich sense of artistry. With his film ‘Caldera’, Evan Viera and a substantial team of supporting artists demonstrate a brilliant sense of composition, lighting design and mastery of the 3D medium.

Caldera_1

This animated short attempts to represent a series of visual hallucinations that take place during a psychotic episode experienced by the female protagonist. Viera is not interpreting his own experiences, but those of his father, a long-term sufferer of schizoaffective disorder. The title refers to the self-destructive process of collapse when a volcanic crater is formed after a major eruption.

As there is no attempt by the film-maker to claim this to be a documentary it may be unfair to criticise this short on the grounds of accuracy when depicting an unstable mental state. The psychological phenomenon is by its very nature subjective, however the lack of discord present in the character’s demeanour was striking. The protagonist spends most of ‘Caldera’ looking calm and concentrated in the context of the fantastical happenings she experiences. When depicting a gross thought disorder such as this it might be be fair to suggest that the subject would likely be considerably less composed during such events.

Caldera_2

Evan Viera writes that his father has “danced on the rings of Saturn, spoken with angels, and fled from his demons”. The traces of these delusions are quite literally interpreted in ‘Caldera’ yet the feeling is very much second hand in tone. Watching this glistening film gives one the impression of a challenging CGI exercise more than that of a depiction of pathological imbalance.

When viewing this film on Vimeo we are confronted in the blurb by Viera’s statement about his father. The film-maker wants us to be aware of the direct link between the protagonist’s vision and his father’s experiences of mental illness.  For that reason I propose this is a documentary of sorts. Although it is based on second-hand observations, the film makes an effort to interpret a subjective experience that most of us could never fathom. Viera repackages it as a digestible image sequence granting the audience insight into a fascinating and difficult topic.

However, the story telling is carried on the back of the film’s aesthetic. The synopsis, for instance, is minimal. In essence a sad-looking woman decides to not comply with her medication (an enormously contentious point in its own right which is not really addressed), leaves the city and goes for a swim. Within the ensuing visualisations good and evil are represented through the colours blue and red, as well as by an animal sprit guide and a telekinetic daemon. Such simplistic symbols are surprisingly successful as narrative features and indicators of tonal change. The absence of dialogue inhibits our expectation of further explanation leaving the imagery to speak for itself. (Spoiler Alert) A lack of resolution is apparent at the end of the film; the screen fades to white during an unjustified moment of mortality. This sequence is treated with such casual romantic vagueness one can only hope, for the protagonist’s sake, that drowning is an extension of her delusion; if not then we are left with a quizzically cynical finale.

‘Caldera’ left me nourished visually but a little under-fed intellectually. A sumptuous film with an elegant air of visual poetry which sadly was not complimented by the reductive narrative.

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‘The Story of Cholera’ by Yoni Goodman and Global Health Media

Animated public information film ‘The Story of Cholera’ explicitly depicts methods of transmission, prevention and treatment of the bacterial disease in a simple and informative manner. The commissioning body, Global Health Media, explains the film ‘follows evidence-based guidelines, has been field-tested, and reviewed for accuracy and content’.

The entire sequence is strikingly utilitarian, breaking the conventional codes of pace found in mainstream film and television in order to emphasise the crucial learning points; for instance twice the viewer is left lingering on an image of a someone washing their hands properly. This film does not pull any punches; diarrhoea and vomiting is frequently depicted and explained in plain descriptive language.

Largely in black and white, colour is used to illustrate the presence of the invisible bacteria. As Western viewers we might take for granted how public health campaigns and detergent advertisements have helped us visualise how disease is spread. At the film’s resolution colour seeps into the black and white palette. This visual metaphor, despite it’s incredibly simplistic symbolism, is suitably optimistic.

The absence of lip-sync indicates one of the crucial functions of this film. Already it has been dubbed into nine languages and there are more in the pipeline. Global Health Media claim the film has been screened in 175 countries around the world. Animated Documentary wishes the campaign further success.

‘Patients’ by Alex Widdowson

Continuing our promises of exciting new things planned for the blog this year we are extremely pleased and excited to welcome on board two very talented people; Alex Widdowson and Charlotte Kaye. They will both be our resident interns for the spring and will be contributing to the blog on a regular basis, so watch this space!

Both Alex and Charlotte are makers of animated films, Charlotte is an animator and sculptor, more about her work to come in the next few weeks and Alex is an artist animator.

Here we feature Alex’s most recent film ‘Patients’ a semi-autobiographic animated documentary about psychosis. It is a valuable and insightful piece of work which addresses the stigmas attached to mental health – in both a medical and a wider society context through personal experience.

https://vimeo.com/43970364

For more updated info on what Alex is up to you can follow his blog here: alexwiddowson.tumblr.com

Review of the Spectrum Portraits series on the BFI site

An article, published yesterday on the BFI site, on the series of films for autism charity Spectrum which we blogged back in August.

http://www.bfi.org.uk/news/animating-autism-spectrum-portraits-project

‘Mother of Many’ by Emma Lazenby

Mother of Many from emma lazenby on Vimeo.

A BAFTA-winning short inspired the director’s mother, who worked for many years as a midwife supporting women through pregnancy and childbirth.

Made by Bristol production company Arthur Cox for Channel 4 Television.

https://vimeo.com/29311641

‘Portraits’ curated by Art & Graft for autism charity Spectrum

Five beautifully designed and animated short films about individuals who UK autism charity Spectrum work with, made by Art & Graft, Matthias Hoegg, Mikey Please, Kristian Andrews and Sebastien Eballard.

You can watch all the films from the project page here.

There’s also a film by Art & Graft about the charity and what they do on their website at
http://www.spectrumasd.org