A new very detailed critique from Finland on the updated “The Swing and the Worm in the Rain” and a mini interview with director Henry Selick on “Coraline” stop-motion animation puppets

February 1, 2014

I am honored to show my Finnish friend’s critique on the new version (with rain sound) of “The Swing and Worm in the Rain”-footage here, as she is very kind to take the time and has some interesting points:

” (…) but now to the video! Generally felt good about it. I think it was better, somehow clearer than before. I don’t remember exactly how the swing sequence was in the first version, but I felt like I got a better look at the cute thing now, and in this version there was a closer focus on one of the swings at the end (? Or that’s at least what I imagined) which made me think that now we are going to see and hear the story of a a particular child sitting on that swing, probably the narrator herself. That was a pretty nice thought. After the swing was gone hearing the man sing with only the white background was a bit frustrating for a few seconds (a nice calming voice though), because obviously I don’t understand the language, and am always eager to get something more out of it than “just” the sound. The feeling when I don’t know what the words say, and there is a screen waiting to be filled with images. The rest of it – still liked it. A thought that just crossed my mind was that all children have the same experiences of nature with all its living and dying creatures, killing them on purpose or by accident, and all the confusing or bad feelings that provokes. That idea was emphasized in the mother and daughter talking about the worms at the same time. So everything to do with the story and humanity happens generation after generation. I could have listened to even more different radio stations by the way. The sound of the rain at the end is one is my favourite part. …”

and this time I will also put my reply to it:

” (…) I only took about three or four frames away from the swing in the beginning and so the last clip, which indeed is focused (as you realized: not all are, some are intentionally blurry), this last clip is matching with the end of the first two verses of the song.

The singer is a good friend of mine and from Romania, the song is a children song about 1 10 elephants that jump onto a spiderweb to swing, when the tenth elephant jumps on the net breaks and all fall down and have a lot of fun.
I deliberately use foreign languages as I want a more abstract sound experience. It is obvious that it is or supposed to be human language and I think it is also obvious it is a children song, but we do not all speak every language, and as children (as well as adults) we do not always understand even our own language.
So that is why I used no translation or English in this case.
The last shot in focus on the swing is supposed to remind of when kids swing on a swing and then jump off for fun and of course it blending into the next story means starting a new chapter of life, older childhood, less innocent.
The white screen is supposed to be frustrating and supposed to communicate the feeling of being BLIND to us, who most of us can see.
Also again in a transferred sense by not knowing what the things happening around us actually mean or also in connection to the incident I am telling that even when we actively do something in this case wrong, not knowing what it means in terms of being a wrong choice making.
Also later the BLACK screen with the changing unclear and casual radio-sounds mixed into is intentional. In contrast to the white screen before which only one very clear voice, which is a very individual and strong and unsettling personal experience, the black screen especially if seen sitting in a dark room in a cinema with the many mixed sounds and music fading and in and out is supposed to mean our human lives being only one of a whole mass of lives of other people and creatures before us, around us and after us.
The lang break is also intentional as we do not know will there come something afterwards or not.
The rain finally in the end of course is a repetition of life and also a possibility of repeating mistakes or perhaps not to as well as I told the story about the worm, the possibility that the narrator or also the listener IS the same as the worm and confronted with challenges that he/she cannot master alone and is subject to one’s destiny.
I am now adding the fetus clip, symbolizing life before birth or re-birth, before the swing clip and not sure if the whale clip will be before or as I originally had planned it afterwards. The whale, symbolizing death, could be put before “life before birth’ as if we think of life and death as a circle it could be both positions. I am thinking and also have to shoot the planets and the galloping horses. …”
Josiane Keller - Swing and Worm in the Rain - swing footage final image
Josiane Keller “Swing and Worm in the Rain – swing footage final image” (2014)
And since it fits very well with what I am thinking about these last months or years even, here an excerpt from an interview with Henry Selick, director of the Studio LAIKA production “Coraline” (2009) on stop-motion animation puppets:
Comments (2) | More: Blog

2 Responses to “A new very detailed critique from Finland on the updated “The Swing and the Worm in the Rain” and a mini interview with director Henry Selick on “Coraline” stop-motion animation puppets”

  1. kohihito says:

    I think you have the most unique way of presenting your thoughts, feelings, and memories in this recent film. The film can not be easily categorized. Is it a film, animation piece, or media art? I am not sure, yet you are able to convey lots of emotion through the visual sequences (including the moments where you chose to have either a white screen or black screen instead of any movement).
    I love the feeling a get from watching and listening to your film. It does not matter too me what language it is in. I like the sound of the voices over the imagery. I like listening to the rain and the old tube am radio.
    I remember a conversation I had about Cat Stevens. His music and voice sound beautiful. But when you listen to what he actually is saying, you may not like what he is actually saying (hard Headed Woman-for example) but as a whole, his music definitely conveys real emotion.
    As opposed to Cat Stevens, I like the message in your movies as well as the sounds. I just wanted to give an example of how important it is to have all the sensory elements in proper alignment to successfully catch your audience.

  2. J.K. says:

    Thank you for the generous comment! I am doing in my films the same as in my 2D art. I am trying to ask questions or bring up discussions more than making a statement, but most animation I see seems to be meant to visually entertain in the first place and the meaning is secondary, although of course there is also meaning in entertainment. Maybe I feel that way as there is hardly ANY animation out there that is not using cartoon-like characters, that are either funny or cute or both, William Kentridge being one of the exceptions. I wonder what would happen to the whole media if people would get off that fashion using all these bambi-eyed bobble-heads in their films.

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