A beautiful string of poetic moments, Abigail takes us on a ride through the uncontrollable random madness of desperation. We open with a burning jet set on a nose-dive course to certain despair. A figure sits quietly—troubled by the photo of a lost lover. He slowly makes his way toward the front of the plane meeting a range of interesting characters—some singing hymns—none interested in helping him find his ultimate answer.
It can be a disorienting experience, so view Abigail not in search of a solid narrative, but as a fluid collection of thoughts strung together by the common theme of loss.
Tony, the filmmaker, explains his inspiration for the short:
I decided the best approach was to collect all of the random ideas that pop into your head while you’re brushing your teeth or paying for gas and try and discern a common thread between them. It wasn’t until the thought of the burning airplane popped into my head in a park in London that the film started to structure itself. After that it was a case of holding each tiny idea up against the this plane scenario and seeing which fit the best.
This kind of technique comes from the idea of a zeitgeist or memes (Richard Dawkin’s word for culturally prevalent ideas that are passed on and mutate like genes). It also relates to something Ed Hooks said about the roots of storytelling. He said that the role of the storyteller essentially hasn’t changed since the days of shamanism when stories were told to the tribe to vindicate their beliefs and bolster their reserve in tough times. I think he’s got a point. Even with apparently subversive and anarchic art: If it’s successful it’s a sure sign that it’s reflective of the values of some kind of ‘tribe’ of people who then re-digest it and use it to bolster their reserve in tough times.
For me, (Abigail) was just an experiment to see what kind of memes or cultural ephemera were in my head so that I might find something interesting. It’s like rooting through the trashcan of popular culture to try and find it’s bank details!
Abigail was Tony’s capstone to his years at the Royal College of Art where it waded through the festival rounds (Special Distinction at Annecy) before making a big splash online. For a genre that often translates poorly online (drama), Abigail‘s strong imagery and score are powerful enough to draw you in. Impeccably well-crafted, Tony has a surgeon’s eye for iconic imagery. His glowing, technicolor world provides a surreal backdrop for the ensuing madness.
Abigail is a very computer-centric film. It was made entirely on a computer and designed to be viewed on a computer screen …it has a much more interesting life on-line because once it’s part of the web it’s like a magnet with iron fillings. The oddest patterns emerge from those attracted and repelled by it.
For example, it was recently downloaded by a girl in China, stripped of it’s audio and re-scored with her favourite Spanish grunge band. the result was horrific, but I was flattered.
While working on his next film, currently Tony finds most of his inspiration from comic books and graphic novels with plans to explore new possibilities in online graphic stories. Check out his website for updates on his work.
Read our full Q&A with Tony Comley.