Tuesday, 6 October 2009

Georges Schwizgebel "The Year of the Deer" ("L’année du daim" 1995)

The Year of the Deer is another masterly short from Georges Schwizgebel, the Swiss animator with a deserved international reputation. Based on a fable by the Chinese writer and philosopher, Liu Zong Yuan, the five minute movie is an absorbing study showing how a fierce dog reacts when placed in the company of a captured deer foal. Each time the dog attacks its prey it is savagely beaten until both animals undergo transformations. The countdown to the movie, a characteristic device of the director, sets the scene with a change of seasons before the credits morph into clouds as we glide over mountains to follow a hunter and dog, shadowing a group of deer before the unleashed dog seizes its prey. In terms of pure storytelling, the movie is hypnotic with a compelling conclusion. Georges' technique and intelligence stand out: his distinctive use of paint on celluloid, colours restricted to green, red, white and black; thick brushstrokes delineating animals and background in stylised, economic manner; varied frame rates as stills are interspersed with more flowing animation; and a four part musical structure by Philippe Koller that underscores all the action to perfection. (For a much more technical analysis check out Oswald Iten’s informed blog, Colorful Animation Expressions.) I hold the director in the highest regard. His work has that big movie feel about it. NFB has a collection of thirteen animated films available, The Films of Georges Schwizgebel.

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