It’s the 30th anniversary of three short animated films I saw when they were new, and never forgot. Some images can stick with you for a lifetime.
When I was a teenager, in the late 80s and early 90s, I used to enjoy watching the collections of animated shorts that would periodically tour theaters. One of them –apparently the 22nd International Tournee of Animation (later released as International Tournee of Animation, Volume 4), had a pair of thematically linked videos whose imagery and devastating messages I can still remember vividly, all these years later.
Balance, according to Wikipedia, is “a German surrealist stop-motion animated film, released in 1989. It was directed and produced by twin brothers Wolfgang and Christoph Lauenstein.” It won the Academy Award for best animated short in 1990. An easily interpreted geopolitical allegory, it depicts the story of a group of dour men whose survival on a precariously balanced platform depends on their unwilling cooperation. In the end, competition over a scarce resource dooms them all.
Russian Jewish animator Garri Bardin’s Vykrutasy was not as richly honored, but in some ways had an even stronger message. It also used a unique style of animation I’ve never seen elsewhere, with figures created out of a spool of wire. A fable about the costs of fear, it depicts a cheerful little man who creates a paradise for himself out of wire, and destroys it in order to build a wall around himself –proving that some messages are timeless.
A third indelible short from the around the same time was Czech surrealist filmmaker Jan Švankmajer’s playfully claustrophobic romp Darkness-Light-Darkness. The story of a literally self-made man, it poses the question of what happens when you finally pull yourself together, only to find that the world isn’t large enough to hold you.
It’s been years since I’ve seen any of these, so I was thrilled to find them all again after an intensive YouTube search recently. I hope you enjoy them, and perhaps find them as meaningful and unforgettable as I did.