Following on the heels of Boom Boom last week, we have another of our finalists from April’s Great Film Competition debuting online. SEED was both one of our more accomplished entries, as well as the most ambitious. A winner at Slamdance 2010, the film portrays the epic struggle of an egg and apple vying for the attention of a transistor radio. Literally interpreted, it is a grotesque and unnerving tale of competition and desire—in its broadest, allegorical sense, a dissertation on the entirety of life and civilization.
It is certainly not light viewing, but what is more immediately engrossing than the plot is the film’s handsome design and animation. Using stop-motion, the film immediately recalled for me the organic, macabre aesthetic of Czech animator Jan Švankmajer. It came as no surprise then when I subsequently learned that co-director and writer Daniel Bird did in fact study with the master for 4 years in Prague, during which period the film was written and shot. The spare, deliberate pacing and surreal aspects of SEED are unmistakable, and the directors credit both Švankmajer and The Brothers Quay as influences.
Influences aside, the film stands resolutely on its own, and as the surrealism transitions into a more absurd mystic iconography, the distance and scope the film travels becomes startling to behold.
Ben Richardson, SEED’s co-director, cinematographer and fellow Brit, moved out to Prague for the 2 years of production the film took, and is likewise responsible for the film’s great aesthetic. As one would imagine from such a detailed stop-motion film, SEED was an arduous labor of love, encompassing not only the 2 years of production work in Prague, but also a lengthy post-production period in New York. The two had help from some familiar names to longtime SotW fans however. Benh Zeitlin and Ray Tintori, acclaimed short filmmakers both, spent some time in Prague to help with building props and, according to Richardson, drinking beer. New York based Josh Hetzler, who works with many filmmakers including Emily Carmichael, produced the film.
Eventually the success of the film, including the Slamdance win, validated the team’s efforts and advanced their careers—Richardson’s talents will be on wider display in January at Sundance, where his first feature as DP, Beasts of the Southern Wild, directed by, yup, Benh Zetilin, will premiere. Bird has come away well-established as an animator, most recently producing this environmentally-minded viral spot. But, I steadfastly refuse to view short films efficacy solely as stepping stones or calling cards, so i’m going to take the time to right now to re-watch and enjoy this bizarre, beautiful fable.