Feb 19, 2013

Homo (Man), 1975


The simple black-and-white stop-motion animation of Homo begins with a ball of gray clay rolling onto a featureless background.  The ball spins for a while, and eventually undergoes a kind of mitosis and splits down the middle into two halves that then shape themselves into round balls, which roll offscreen.  One of the new, smaller balls then rolls back into the frame, and we watch as it develops itself -- slowly, and with a great deal of effort and accompanying quiet sound effects -- into an increasingly detailed human form.  The newly created manikin starts to experiment with its range of physical motion, and, after successfully lifting its arms into the air, lets out a sound that eventually resolves itself into a laugh of triumph at the course of its progress.

Now, for the first time, the camera shifts and pans left to reveal another clay manikin, which has presumably been developing out of the other half of the original clay ball the entire time we've been watching 'our' manikin grow and change.  (The first and possibly hardest part about being human, as the camera aptly demonstrates, is shifting the frame of vision to remember the existence of someone outside of yourself.)   The manikins notice each other at last, and begin to mimic each other's movements, but their curious and relatively friendly interaction is disrupted when another small clay ball rolls in between them.  The manikins begin to fight over the new ball, grunting and pounding at each other with clay fists.  Sadly, the newborn manikins have not yet discovered one important fact: clay is malleable.  As they attack each other, the manikins start to lose structural integrity and distinction, and in the end have smashed themselves back together into a gray featureless ball once again. 

So is the message that humanity is doomed to pointless self-destruction and infinite regression?  The film does at least provide some suggestion of change; at the end, the ball divides itself into, not two, but four segments, each of which rolls off in a different direction, and the story begins all over again. 

As a sidenote, the print of the film that was uploaded is badly vertically scratched throughout --  unless this was an intentional choice on the part of the filmmaker, although it doesn't seem to play particularly into the themes.  But you never know! 

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