Short Animated Film: Morris And The Other
A dog with a human head. Giant heads with arms and no bodies. Self-decapitation. A hand-less, skinless being. These are a few of the surreal creatures lurking about in Edwin Rostron‘s short film Morris and the Other; a sad, and at times grotesque, meditation on desire. Rostron populates a barren landscape with beings desperately yearning for a piece of themselves that is missing, which mostly results in their situation becoming even worse. But, what’s even more unique and surreal than these deformed entities? That Rostron drew the entire film just using a regular 2B pencil.
For me, in our overly digitized world these days, it’s always comforting encountering an animator still working in a hand-drawn style. While I believe some of the drawings have been digitally manipulated — e.g. the kite that flies over the field of marching heads looks digitally composited — at least those drawings began as and are primarily recognizable as being drawn with a pencil. Not a computer tool imitating a pencil; or drawings that were sketched in pencil, then finished up in the computer; but actually beginning and ending as a pencil drawing.
The film also initially appears to be a series of disconnected tableaux. Most scenes don’t flow into the next one. But, instead, the the movie’s through-line is that strong thematic connection of desire and the pain that results. The hand-less man reaches for the flying appendage and falls to his doom. The lonely boy at the table severs his own head to be with the pretty girl floating head, only to find his own skull cannot live on its own. The elderly creature that goes off on its own after its partner dies, eventually gets swallowed up by a pool of blood.
There are also some visual connections between scenes, although those occur not in scenes right next to each other, but jump over each other. For example, the little heads being towed around in trucks in the second tableau don’t appear to have anything to do with the giant marching heads in the fourth tableau. However, several scenes later one of each kind meets. Finally, I believe the shadowy baby in the last scene is towing that little head back after having been pummeled by the larger head with the arms.
These connections allow us to believe that all of these scenes are taking place on the same world, a world populated solely by tragic characters. From the kite flying across several scenes to the blood flowing from one scene to the next, these characters exist together even if they are all completely unaware of the suffering of their fellow residents. Each one suffers silently in his or her own misery, not finding comfort in their partners or in strangers.
So, yeah, it’s all pretty bleak and savagely unreal. However, the hand-drawn quality of the animation gives the film a very human touch, reminding us that a person drew all of this and had to devise each scenario himself, which marks the ultimate connection between all of the little dramas that play out.