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Friday, 3 October 2008

Petra Freeman "Jumping Joan"










Jumping Joan (1994) was inspired by nursery rhyme: 'Here am I, little Jumping Joan,/ When nobody’s with me, I’m all alone.' Apart from the obvious rhyme and incongruity I'm not sure of the meaning though in Petra Freeman's hands a dark significance is attached. One of Petra's earlier movies is to be the subject of the next Sunday Classic and Jumping Joan could as easily have been similarly classified. Petra takes us on a flight of fancy in which a young girl is forced to amuse herself wandering alone in a threatening landscape, swept along underground tunnels, wandering into empty rooms, playing with her shadow. Her presence seems to frighten others her age who run away into their home. She pursues friendship or adventure by crawling through tunnels and flying with clouds. Dark figures that may or may not be threatening appear along with two white rabbits conjured up from under the girl's rouged skirt. As well as this rich use of red, chiaroscuro is a feature of the movie with streams of light or dark used in arresting ways - white tree: dark river, white house: dark shadows. In her darkness she discovers jewels or illuminations, exquisitely animated like children's sparklers or fireworks; light fizzles wheresoever she moves. The film is illusive: there are moments when one feels Jumping Joan is in desperate danger, one dark figure being particularly threatening, though the chimeric images or characters could just as conceivably be conjured from the girl's imagination for comfort in her isolation. Thus the cloud embraces her, the figure in the cave gives her light. She is alone at the end though, watched by creatures of her imagination. Hand painted on plaster it is a memorable movie, hinting at dark secrets. An alternative viewing is at art.mofile.com though I have the original movie on DVD in Best of British Animation Awards Volume1.

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