Here’s a short (5-minute) adaptation of Lovecraft’s short story “The Hound,” rendered with CG animation and presented in a really intriguing style. I wouldn’t have expected it to “work” for me, but by Azathoth, it does. The gloomy and intriguing visual conception and the lush sound design all add up to a very effective presentation of Lovecraft’s tale of two men who, craving a sublime experience of darkness and decadence, and having exhausted the available literary and artistic sources for such things, turn to grave-robbing. In short order, they call down a hideous fate upon themselves when they inadvertently wake up an ancient supernatural presence.
The predatory excursions on which we collected our unmentionable treasures were always artistically memorable events. We were no vulgar ghouls, but worked only under certain conditions of mood, landscape, environment, weather, season, and moonlight. These pastimes were to us the most exquisite form of aesthetic expression, and we gave their details a fastidious technical care. An inappropriate hour, a jarring lighting effect, or a clumsy manipulation of the damp sod, would almost totally destroy for us that ecstatic titillation which followed the exhumation of some ominous, grinning secret of the earth.
. . . After that we lived in growing horror and fascination. Mostly we held to the theory that we were jointly going mad from our life of unnatural excitements, but sometimes it pleased us more to dramatise ourselves as the victims of some creeping and appalling doom. Bizarre manifestations were now too frequent to count. Our lonely house was seemingly alive with the presence of some malign being whose nature we could not guess, and every night that daemoniac baying rolled over the windswept moor, always louder and louder.
— H. P. Lovecraft, “The Hound” (1924)
Directed, animated, scored, and edited by filmmaker Keith Ronindelli, this amazing short film evokes the dark mystery and sacred terror of Arthur Machen’s classic tale “The White People” in just six minutes. I’m personally struck by the depth and richness of both the vision and the execution, and by the sheer awesomeness of the hallucinatory imagery arising from the young protagonist’s discovery of a pagan shrine in a forest, whose general character is indicated by a line from Machen’s story that appears as an epigraph at the start of the film: “It was so strange and solemn and lonely, like a hollow temple of dead heathen gods.”
Ronindelli explained his intentions and inspirations to Cartoon Brew back in 2011 when the film was released:
The Forbidden Forest is inspired by the work of Arthur Machen, who was a Welsh writer of supernatural fiction from the late 19th and early 20th century, specifically his classic tale “The White People.” I’m also a big fan of 1960s and 1970s animation and cinema, so the impetus for the piece was an attempt to marry the feel of Arthur Machen with movies such as René Laloux’s Fantastic Planet, Robin Hardy’s The Wicker Man, and the films of Stanley Kubrick, namely 2001: A Space Odyssey and The Shining.
Outsider art is another longtime love of mine, and I wanted the piece to somehow fuse a 60s/70s widescreen cinematic language with the strange, obsessive imperfectness of outsider artists such as Henry Darger and Adolf Wolfli.
Here’s the high-res version of The Forbidden Forest from Vimeo. Headphones are definitely recommended for catching all the nuances of the soundtrack. If you have a problem with playback, try the lower-res version at YouTube.
RELATED POST: “Cosmic Horror vs. Sacred Terror,” a Teeming Brain podcast featuring a roundtable discussion of the comparisons and contrasts between the respective weird fictional visions and philosophies of Arthur Machen and H. P. Lovecraft.
In a word: wow. This new short film, released on July 30 and currently receiving enthusiastic praise all over the place, is a beautifully realized piece of short-form dystopian science fiction.
It tells the story of a near future in which, to quote the official press release, “a neurologist and two homicide detectives use experimental brain taping technology to question a murder victim about his final moments.” It stars Paul Reubens (who’s a joy to watch here in a dramatic role) as the neurologist, with the other roles filled by equally impressive actors.
The writer-director, acclaimed graphic novelist M. F. Wilson, invokes the idea of the Singularity, especially in its Kurzweilian iteration, as his main inspiration:
I was influenced by the theories of Ray Kurzweil on the Singularity and digital immortality and curious to see how the law will deal with the situations that arise from it. I’m excited about the idea of copying memories into code. Imagine that after your body dies, you can go on living in a digital state. This technology is in our near future and will challenge the very definition of life and death. It makes a great basis for a high-tech crime story…
Short of the Week offers a nice description of the film’s really impressive style, tone, and production quality:
Visually inspired by Fritz Lang’s Metropolis, one of the directors favourite science-fiction films, the dark, industrial aesthetics of The Final Moments of Karl Brant make the short feel like a cross between Blade Runner and Se7en. With Brett Pawlak’s cinematography, J.R. Hawbaker’s costume design and Level 256′s visual FX all using their extensive industry experience to paint a gritty and uncompromising vision of the future.
Enough with the preamble. Just watch.
Over at The Daily Grail, Greg describes this fascinating and very slick short film as a “fun little superhero story with a Fortean feel to it.” io9’s Observation Deck calls the title character “the creepiest superhero” and concurs about the film’s quasi-Fortean dimension. Both point out that it recalls Mexico’s rash of flying humanoid sightings from several years ago.
In more detail, and as summarized by USA Today‘s Whitney Matheson, The Flying Man “tells the story of a mysterious flying man/being who is taking out unsuspecting citizens. Is he a hero? Is he a vigilante? It’s up to us to decide. Interestingly, viewers are given no background about The Flying Man, and unlike most superhero stories, this tale is told from the scared citizens’ points of view.”
The film was directed, produced, financed, and edited by Toronto-based filmmaker Marcus Alqueres and co-written by Alqueres and Henry Grazinoli. Alqueres has also done visual effects work on a number of A-list films, including 300 and Rise of the Planet of the Apes.
I’m really impressed at the ominous and semi-apocalyptic tone that Alqueres and his team were able to evoke in just nine minutes — an effect that’s created not just by the great visual effects, writing, and actors’ performances, but by an excellent musical score. Seriously, how would we all feel, and how would society as a whole react, if incontrovertible evidence of supernormal powers came crashing at us like a tsunami through our televisions, computer screens, radios, and the rest of the collective totality of our flickering media web? And what if the mysterious individual displaying those powers happened to be using them in a vigilante capacity to commit public acts of mayhem and murder? In the words of The Flying Man’s official press release, the film “depicts the first appearances of a super powered vigilante, his impact in a modern society and its ethical discussion.”
The mind boggles at this stunning animated film, released in summer 2012, that tells “A story about the fire at the heart of suffering. Bringing together dancers, musicians, visual artists and 3d animators, the film takes a critical look at the events of the past decade that have shaped our world.” With a “cast” that includes many massively important figures on the world stage (both ancient and modern, historical and mythological), and featuring a fairly amazing original musical score, the film is replete with mystical, occult, esoteric, and religious symbolism. It’s an instance of politically and religiously charged surrealism of the most edgy, beautiful, and mind-blowing sort.
If you’d like a breakdown of the “plot,” see this review at Greenewave. Otherwise, just open your mind and watch. More than once, preferably, if you want to catch all that’s going on.
The director is Louis Lefebvre. The production company is Heliofant, whose self-described mission is the use of computer animation, driven by art and artists from multiple fields, for explicitly philosophical and spiritual ends:
Based in the beautiful Laurentian mountains just north of Montreal, Canada, Heliofant is a nascent independent computer animation studio focused on creating experimental and challenging content. Bringing together artists from the fields of dance, music, computer animation and visual arts, the company is very interested in exploring the common ground that underlies many spiritual and philosophical traditions in a lyrical form.
Image via Heliofant
It may be giving away too much in advance to describe this short masterpiece of visionary animation as a religious metaphor that channels and encompasses not just the entire history of human civilization but its possible future as well. Or maybe not. Judge for yourself. Indie film site Directors Notes included “The Gloaming” among its official “picks” for June 2012 and accurately described it as an exploration of “planetary birth and the rapid evolution of its populous [sic] into exploitative war mongers.”
“The Gloaming” was produced by Sabotage Studio and directed by Nobrain, which is a pseudonym for a team of three filmmakers. “Saii, Charles and Niko met while they were working for post-production houses in Paris,” they say in their official self-description. “Saii was a compositing artist, Charles a CG artist and Niko a post-production supervisor.” Sabotage Studios is in fact their own creation; they launched it in 2001 as a post-production studio but then gave up control of it “to dedicate themselves to their own creations.”
For the easily offended, beware of not only scenes of (animated) violence but some explicit scenes of (animated) sex and nudity. For everyone, beware of helpless fascination with a piece of cinematic art that channels a disturbing premise into an even more disturbing conclusion.
Shot in a style that renders it both an explicit homage to cinema noir and an exploration of fantasy and surrealism, “Nuit Blanche” (2010) is nothing short of exquisite. The title translates literally from the French as “white night.” The production company is Spy Films. The director is Arev Manoukian. The idea is this:
Nuit Blanche explores an experience many of us have lived before — a fleeting yet powerful connection with a perfect stranger. Set in a dark cobblestone street in the 1950’s, a man catches the gaze of a woman in a cafe across the street. This split-second moment becomes suspended in time, as the two gravitate towards each other in a hyper real fantasy where nothing can hold them back.
The execution is magical.
For the curious, there’s a rather fascinating accompanying documentary detailing the making of the film.
Mesmerizing, beautiful, and even revelatory, this short film effectively does what the time lapse portions of Koyaanisqatsi did for contemporary urban-technological cityscapes and selected portions of untouched nature, only it expands the scope to encompass the planet as a whole — an appropriate ambition for a film titled “Terra Sacra,” Latin for “Sacred Earth.”
“Terra Sacra Time lapses” was photographed and edited by photographer-filmmaker Sean F. White in conjunction with projects he was working on for various high-profile media organizations (e.g., public television, National Geographic, The Discovery Channel), and it features a really fine original score by film and television composer Roy Milner. It also has its own Website, where White offers this evocative description of the project’s spiritual and practical genesis:
An around-the-world journey celebrating our Sacred Earth. Six-years in the making … seven continents … 24 countries.
My life as a filmmaker has been a journey which has blessed me with the privilege of seeing some of the most surreal and timeless places on the planet. These images of our Sacred Earth set to music are my way of sharing some of the magic I’ve experienced along the way … “Terra Sacra Time Lapses” is a short film featuring remote landscapes and ancient monuments from around the globe. These images were photographed between 2006-2012 on personal travels and assignments for Art Wolfe’s Travels to the Edge and Parallax Film Productions. I’ve combined my favourite shots from these trips into non-narrative film that touches on a theme close to my heart: Sacred Earth.
… The six-minute film is a journey through three distinct Acts: (I) Primordial Earth (II) Past meets Present and (III) Eternal Universe. This film is a personal project to share the beauty and awe I witnessed at these locations. I hope viewers will be moved by the intangible power of our Terra Sacra.
For another short film that is formally unrelated but thematically and artistically akin to “Terra Sacred Time Lapses,” see “Within Two Worlds.”
“Within Two worlds” offers another impressive take on a philosophical and cinematographic idea explored in Koyaanisqatsi and “Terra Sacred Time Lapses” — specifically, the idea that unrecognized aspects of reality and nature, including astonishing patterns and motions of beauty, grace, and symmetry, become visible when time lapse photography allows us to view the world at speeds transcending the normal human perspective. “Time-lapse is one of the hottest trends in photography nowadays, thanks in part to the wider availability of high-end cameras, high-resolution video and high production values,” observed NBC News journalist Alan Boyle a little over a month ago. “But you need some high-class talent behind the lens as well … The latest stunner to surface comes from Pacific Northwest photographer Brad Goldpaint. Goldpaint’s three-minute time-lapse, titled ‘Within Two Worlds,’ features three years’ worth of sky imagery collected from a variety of locales — including Tumalo Falls, the Three Sisters Wilderness, Crater Lake and Sparks Lake in Oregon, as well as the High Sierra, Mono Lake and Mount Shasta in California.”
Says Goldpaint himself:
“Within Two Worlds” depicts an alternate perspective by giving us the illusion of time’s movement, signifying a beginning and end within a world of constant contradiction. It appears you are traveling in the midst of a dream, half-sleeping, half-waking, and touching the arch connecting heaven and earth. I discovered my passion for photography shortly after my mother’s passing while hiking the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) 3 years ago. This time-lapse video is my visual representation of how the night sky and landscapes co-exist within a world of contradictions. I hope this connection between heaven and earth inspires you to discover and create your own opportunities, to reach your rightful place within two worlds.