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.

Petrov's ordeal

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.


Hilath said...

I read The Old Man and the Sea years back and it left a strong impression on me too. In fact, it was one of the most emotionally satisfying books I have ever read (in addition to Peter S. Beagle's "The Last Unicorn" and Robert R. McCammon's "Boy's Life" which Hursheed said he again recently read and still found it breathtaking years later).
I watched Petrov's The Old Man and the Sea after smoking a joint and man, that was an experience!
But I guess Al would disagree and say that I should watch art while not "artificially enhanced."
Don't worry Al and Kausar. I hardly do it now, except only for weekends. :-)

Hilath said...

Just to add another point:
Al used the phrase "artificially enhanced." But I have to disagree with that. Since God made Grass, how can Al say that smoking a joint will only give us "artificially enhanced" sunsets?!

Al said...

hey rentay, sorry shaari, can i borrow the film for this weekend? sounds like my kind of film, man and nature..reminds me a bit of the hussenkoe documentary we wanted to make (the fisherman from shaviyani who took out to sea despite having had both of his legs crushed in an accident).

aindhy, do you think you could post a piece on an antonioni film for readers who may not be familiar with his films?

hilath, while i may prefer to enjoy art and nature without the aid of mind-altering substance, i don't remember ever having tried to impose my viewing habits on you or anyone else.

Hilath said...

er, al, somebody thought that he may have felt some pressure from you... if you are offended by my earlier comment, then i apologise

shaari said...

hey pimpey, sorry al, i'll ask I.Y., who you so fondly call 'cherub', since it's his film...

Hilath said...

Yasir has lost his cherub looks. I think he started swimming again. damn! he should come surfing cos swimming is so mundane. i mean how interesting is it to swim laps in a closed space? it's as interesting as looking at the bajiya ga on the seawall...

yasir said...

I thought I had forgotten to appreciate animated films until I came across Petrov's works. The images seamlessly create a dream like reality which can only be wasted if approached under the influence of any substance. Sorry , Hilath, but you really are missing out on something! The film reminded me of the pleasure I got watching 'Last Unicorn' during my early years (can't say I looked like a cherub even then... but al should make up his mind if it is a devil or a cherub). At the moment i am waiting for Petrov's "moya lyubov". Can anyone get it?

aindhy said...

Al, I'll get back to Antonioni/Bergman later - I'm by no means an expert so would cherish doing some research on them before I post...

Al said...

i loved the textures brought out by the oils, and i've never seen the ocean depicted with such depth..the wholesome rough look to me is a welcome change from the polished but clinical CG sheen of so many animated features these days; it engages your mind in the interpretive process..i think the hard work, the passion, and the results are an inspiration for anyone wanting to make quality cinema..IY clearly knows a good think when he sees it..

Hilath said...

can anyone teach me how to tap my "artistic eye" in the brain without the use of any substance as Al and Yasir seems to be able to do so through natural or acquired means I don't have a clue about. Perhaps, somebody could tell me...?

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