Sunday, 31 August 2008

Tomek Bagiński "The Cathedral" (Katedra)

Sunday Classic Animation
Tomek Bagiński

For some reason Tomek Bagiński's 2002 Oscar nominated film, The Cathedral, has been one I've held back on reviewing despite its majestic qualities. Now with my series of Sunday Classics its wait is no more. The Metacafe video in the link allows a standard of resolution that is required by the CG generated and spectacular animation. The Cathedral is high on impact, less so on plot. Enigmatically posed against the backdrop of a planet in eclipse a hooded pilgrim approaches and enters a cathedral. It is a vast cave with a vaulted ceiling that might be formed from giant trees, the roots of which surge from the rock in an organic complex. Gargoyles, or rather petrified figures, look down on him and a tilt of the head or turn of the eyes signifies their sentience. Any progress of the pilgrim is blocked by an impenetrable abyss. The opening to the film features a planet surface comprising scarcely cooled lava and there is a significance as the eclipse ends and light enters the predominantly orange interior of the cave leading to a suitably dramatic conclusion as the pilgrim is reintegrated into his world. When I first viewed the movie I thought of Tolkien's Moria though this is less intimidating. It has that awe inspiring quality however. The music by Adam Rosiak and sound by Kuba Pietrzak evoke all the drama and tension, adding immeasurably to the spectacle of it all. Written by Tomek Baginski and Jacek Dukaj, from the latter's short story, this is CG technology (3ds Max) stretched to its maximum, certainly at the time it was made, technology having moved on even in these few years. Tomek based his 3D models for the work on the medieval cathedral of Notre Dame in Amiens. It won the Siggraph 2002 (Best Animated Short). Such a complex piece of work is hard to explain in terms of meaning. The solitary figure exploring the cave is a spell-bound as is the audience by the cathedral's complexity. Whether the eclipse allows him release, escape or, at its close, imprisonment is not immediately clear to me. The conclusion does however reveal something about the cathedral. And a classic? For seven or so minutes and we have been cast into another world. And the concluding scenes are absolutely stunning.
Biography: Born in 1976 2002, Tomek Bagiński studied Architecture at the Warsaw Institute of Technology. His studies were in architectiure and in fact his animation skills were largely self-taught. He used CG because it was the cheapest way he knew to make movies. His Fallen Art, reviewed here last year, has been critically acclaimed. Tomek made The Cathedral for Polish production company, Platige Image, founded in 1997, by Piotr Skiora and Jarek Sawko.

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