Saturday, 30 January 2010

Revolver (1993), Jonas Odell

(Part of Animation Month)

They look like robots. They look like us or maybe we look like them. We see them doing their domestic chores, hard at work, at funerals and at weddings, deep in the process of dying and living.

Odell, famous too for his music videos and the mixing of live action with animation, loops these scenes of a few seconds long for around one minute each. In so doing his film marches unsteadily forward as if with the whirring clanking steps of its subjects. Maddening fairground music is punctuated with exaggerated sound - the flapping of a fish in a puddle, groans and abrupt exclamations. It's a spinning carousel you want to get off of. Trapped in a system, trapped within your roles, trapped within yourself. It's disturbing.

Whether this was Odell's aim or not the motifs and sensations of man as machine, of struggles inner and outer and of teeth-grinding inertia bring to mind East European anti-Communist art. Take Jiri Trnka's incisive Hand (1965) as just one example.

The structure of the film lends a slow, painful movement and the manic smiles (as well as the grimaces) seem to say: "If it's this bad, all you can do is smile". Yes, what's really painful to the touch are the shards of black humour piercing through the painted masks.

Dystopic in tone and drowsily delirious, Revolver gets under your skin and develops into an itch you can't scratch. In eight short minutes, that's not bad.


  1. Oh, Wow. Wonder why filmmakers choose animation to make the most disturbing of political statements. May be they feel it's closer to painting and, hence, more spontaneous and expressive. Thanks for this concise yet incisive review, Stephen.

  2. Thanks, JAFB!

    As I said I'm not sure if Odell was setting out to make a political statement but it could certainly function as one.

    "May be they feel it's closer to painting and, hence, more spontaneous and expressive."

    I think you're right. I think the nature of animation lends itself to fable and allegory and makes these types of comments on real life easier to swallow.