Monday, 4 May 2009

Jiří Bárta "The Design" (1981)

Mention of Jiří Bárta yesterday leads to today's classic animation by one of the masters. A digression first. Prague is one of the most beautiful cities in the world, a treasure that remained untouched by the ravages of the world wars. Surrounding the city are ugly tower blocks, remnants of the soviet era and the homes of most of Prague's workforce. I have a friend in one and her apartment is testimony to the ability of the individual to assert a certain individuality in a situation in which conformity is the easiest option. Jiří's eloquent The Design targets the designers of the blocks and their suppression of individualism. It commences in literal, almost prosaic fashion with the laying out of the equipment needed for designer and animator both. The blank white paper is soon divided into identical sections, the designer briskly efficient - brilliantly so in terms of animation. When the boxes have been drawn and the paper filled, envelopes are opened and families placed in position within the measured sections allocated to each. Where the existing size of the furniture renders this impossible the wardrobe is clipped to suit as is the pet, designed to fit in with its surroundings. Divergences from the norm are the musician and artist whose work and piano fill the room without the space for a human being. In another apartment a painting of man and woman is curtly removed to be replaced by something entirely less personal, and without colour. If all this sounds as dull as dishwater, think again for Jiří's very briskness, say, of the brutally clipped dog is funny and there is a beauty in the masterly technique of the animator as the paper is filled with majestic precision or the tiny cutout families are inserted into their homes. As the roller comes out, is pressed hard and the camera pans out to see many such identical canvases the point is made more pointedly than any diatribe. The director's collected works, Labyrinth of Darkness, is one of my favourite DVDs; The Design one of the best pieces on it. If you have not actually clicked on any of the links lately, do check out this movie, required viewing for any animator.

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