Tuesday, August 28, 2007
Lauding "The Old Man and the Sea"
The old man and the marlin
Courtesy of my associate I.Y. (who some refer to as ‘the devil’, which I believe he doesn’t really mind) I finally watched Russian master animator Aleksandr Petrov’s oscar-winning animated short The Old Man and the Sea. I was mighty impressed. This 20-minute short, which also won a host of other animation awards, is a remarkable blend of style and substance.
Based on Ernest Hemingway’s classic novella it was the first animated film to burst into Imax screens and suffice it to say it was a pity I had to watch it on my pc. Nonetheless it was an awe-inspiring experience.
The Old Man and the Sea was launched as part of a tribute to Hemingway who we all know is one of the most celebrated authors of the 20th century.
The film is a simple, moving tale of an aging fisherman who is past his proud, adventurous life. He is now a victim of ill fortune and comes back home from the sea empty-handed. He feels he should hang up his fishing rod whilst seeking solace in the company of a little boy who encourages him to keep going.
One day he sails out into the sea with renewed determination to turn around his luck, resulting in a battle reminiscent of the defining moments in his life.
A comment on this film will be unjust without admiring the painstaking effort Petrov made to create it. It took more than two years for him to complete it. Why? 29,000 frames with his own hands! He made every frame using slow-drying oil paints on glass sheets. He altered the oils between frames with his fingers, photographed the outcomes, and moulded the oils for the next frame and so forth.
In explaining why he used his fingers to paint instead of brushes he said it was the “closest way from the heart to the cartoon."
To add insult to injury, though he normally works on an A4 sized canvass the size had to be enlarged four times for Imax!
In the end it was worth the wait and effort. It is a product of beauty and depth. It possesses a dream-like quality unseen in today’s 3-D animation and the non-refined look of the animation with stutters in movement creates a gritty, dramatic effect.
Ofcourse one would invest such energy into a production only with high passion for the material. Petrov read the book as a child and it left a strong imprint on him. He wrote the script years ago and after much struggle for funding Imax took it up.
He said he drew inspiration from the old man’s character: "The story is special to me as is the inspiring central character. His struggle resembles the struggle, the patience and determination needed as an animator. You have to love what you do."
To sum up, The Old Man takes on universal themes of courage, defiance in the face of adversity, and self-identity in refreshing fashion.
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