Tuesday, 17 July 2007

Michael Dudok de Wit & Arjan Wilschut ’“Father and Daughter”

I was deeply moved by Father and Daughter, Michael Dudok de Wit’s Oscar winning movie of 2000. I also watched it with a class of students who were similarly affected. In conjunction with his co-director, Arjan Wilschut, Michael has created a rare animation that works on several levels. It is obviously metaphorical and yet works on the simple level of plot. It deservedly won the Academy Award for Best Short Film (Animated). Father and Daughter is a story of a father who leaves his daughter and rows off into the ocean. The little girl returns again and again to her vantage point on the cliff to search out to sea for his return. Each return marks a passage in her life from child to adolescent, mother and eventually old age. In the creator’s own words it is about “longing” that never diminishes despite the passage of time and in fact grows more intense. The girl’s yearning to see her father is a metaphor for every wish that is not fulfilled, remaining as potent as the day it evolved. And yet as a father of two growing daughters it works because we want the girl’s search for her father to be rewarded. It touches on deepest relationships within the family. Every father who has held his infant daughter in his hands or every daughter who has ever been held will have an emotional response to this beautiful movie and work of art. The landscape of the Netherlands with its wide skies and tall poplar trees is the backdrop to the movie. The sky and landscape is a delicate colour wash of grey, sepia, sometimes hints of green or blue. The drawing is pencil and charcoal. Often the figures are drawn in silhouette. Always the art is sparse, perhaps a smudge that transforms into a slender girl or old woman; or, a dominant feature of the movie, as the shadows of the trees or the delicate wheels and frame of the bicycle in black and white are viewed in close-up or from afar, perhaps the girl circled by trees that throw sharp shadows into patterns around her, or a simple canvas as the seascape is vast and empty. The seasons change with a rustle of leaves or the girl struggling up the hill against wind that bends the trees. The 1946 “Anniversary Song” by Al Jolson and Saul Chaplin, itself based on "The Danube Waves" theme by Iosif Ivanovici, forms the basis of the wonderful soundtrack, initially played on the accordion but embracing piano, guitar and oboe. Normand Roger’s musical composition is masterful. This is such a wonderful movie and easily one of the very finest featured on the blog. It is available for download from the BBC. I have purchased a copy of the DVD and sixteen page book about the film from

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