When we first discussed the creative projects in class, I mentioned doing a “serious” documentary about apocalypse as it is depicted in Islam. However, I was inspired to do something more fun after watching a short animated film from this year’s Doomsday Fest. The main character was a lemon head and the director created simple movements by taking stills of the lemon head traversing different flat images. I employed a similar concept in my animation, however instead of flat images – I used real-life backgrounds from my kitchen cabinets to the picture frames in the Metropolitan Opera.
Before I even began shooting and animating, I knew that Philip Glass’ “Evening Song” would be my background music. I was often skeptical of and ridiculed people who claimed to be inspired by songs or dances. However, after listening to this aria sung at the end of Satyagraha, a contemporary Sanskrit opera about Mahatma Ghandi’s life, I was impacted significantly. For some reason, I immediately thought of this creative project and had a vision about the main character walking through his life with the “Evening Song” playing in the background. The song has repeated cycles of the same notes. The cyclical nature of the repetitions reminded me of the older theories about apocalyptic cycles. I wanted to introduce this concept by using the music, but also showing that this character’s world is contained in a small notepad. The repetitions are playing in the background as the main character (whom I will call “Jagged” from now on) is being “created.” There is also a shift in mood from a dark, pessimistic atmosphere into a sentimentally optimistic overtone. This shift represents, for me, the dual nature of apocalypse – a time of impending doom and judgment but also a time opening in a new millennium of peace and virtue.
The optimistic overtone begins as the main character’s partner (“Circle”) is slowly approaching. Previously, as Jagged is being created, the music was darker and pessimistic. Again, this shift in mood highlights the duality of the apocalypse, but it also foreshadows the impending “doom” that Jagged will face.
Circle was inspired by the traditional female eschatological antagonists such as Jezebel and the whore of Babylon. Besides Circle’s curves, there isn’t a display or use of Circle’s sexuality as a weapon. However, Circle is certainly meant to be a neo-villain bringing about a personal apocalypse in Jagged. I use the term neo-villain only because the animation doesn’t present Circle as the traditional evil villain. However, all of Jagged’s stumbles and falls seem to be an effect of Circle.
There is certainly a “story” in my film, although it is not presented in a traditional way. The main point is that Jagged is created and thrown into an unfamiliar world. Jagged meets Circle and only a few frames later is involved in a marriage-like bond. Immediately, children come along. This quick succession in events is juxtaposed to the slow-paced creation in the introduction. The union with Circle begins the end of Jagged’s world as foreshadowed by the mirrored images of the family clashing into one. Jagged ends up in very precarious situations (such as kitchen cabinets closing in on him, falling off living room tables) and in each case, Circle is standing there or the camera zooms to Circle’s silhouette. As Circle passes through the screen standing triumphantly atop a round ship, Jagged attempts to follow her but fails. Circle is not supposed to be the traditional antichrist figure in Jagged’s life, however her presence is certainly bringing about a personal apocalypse for Jagged. The final scene, after Jagged falls off in an attempt to approach Circle, the children all move away with Circle to the right of the screen. This brings about the official end of Jagged’s paper world which only had meaning because of Circle and their children. So, the animation of Jagged’s body being drawn apart closes off his animated sequences. It reminds the viewers that Jagged was created and Jagged was consequently destroyed. The final words “the end” refers to Jagged’s personal apocalypse as Circle and the children walk swiftly by the screen.
I titled the piece Gjonbalocalypse because I thought the name was very funny. More importantly, though, it is a reference to the extremely personal nature of the animation. I certainly see myself in Jagged and I’ve also witnessed Jagged and Circle’s dishonest relationship with my family and friends. Believers would say God created all life and consequently will end all life. What I’ve realized, though, is that humans often create lives and simultaneously create personal apocalypses for others. I tried to represent this notion of creating lives and creating expectations through the symbol of the notebook. The extreme danger of these created expectations is shown through Jagged’s relationship with Circle and his subsequent personal apocalypse.