My relationship with my emotions and cinema is complicated. Most of my childhood traumas were the result of premature encounters with dystopian sci-fi and horror (CURSE YOU JAMES CAMERON!). While extremely reticent to cry in front of family and friends, I openly relish a good sob in the theatre. I still, to this day, cannot watch the romantic scenes in movies – its too embarrassing. I have strong reactions to moving images. I know this. That being said, I was still greatly surprised by the tumult of emotions elicited in me by the surreal animation of Julia Pott in her short film “Belly”.
Premiering at Sundance in 2012, Pott’s short is populated by boys with elephant and horse heads, a fantastical bisecting beast, and the ingurgitating stomach of a blasé whale. While chock-a-block with whimsy and weird visuals, the animation doesn’t detract from story, but rather effectively showcases a very poignant and universal tale about the moment when childhood is lost.
In an interview with the Motionographer, Pott attributes some of her inspiration for the short coming from her own childhood, much of which was spent tagging after her older sister. She describes her eagerness to achieve maturity and the mournful nostalgia that it’s loss produces this way, “Once [childhood has] been given up, it’s gone. You can remember the sensation, you can feel it in the pit of your stomach, but you cannot get back there – hence the title, ‘Belly.’”
Boy howdy, does she recreate that feeling in the most wonderful and terrible way, and all in under ten minutes! The film makes me feel things that I am not entirely sure I want to feel. While I can’t recall the moment when childhood was over for me with any vivid detail and I can’t quite understand the strangely familiar feeling that grows in my stomach when watching this film, that feeling is present throughout the duration of “Belly”.
I don’t cry when I watch the short – the film doesn’t invoke that kind of emotion (at least not in me). Instead, it goes deeper than that. It finds that soft part of my gut and hits it so subtly that I don’t even notice. However, I can assure you that when the film is over the ache lingers.
If that didn’t totally bum you out, you can watch Ms. Pott’s most recent short “The Event” along with other 2013 Sundance selections here: http://www.youtube.com/user/ytscreeningroom
All of the shorts are good, but I highly recommend “Marcel, King Tervuren.” Never did a tale of a Belgian Rooster so closely resemble the plot of a Shakespearean tragedy.