The puppetry category here on Short of the Week isn’t exactly one bursting at the seams with content, so when a film featuring the “most-traditional” aesthetic we’ve seen from a film of this medium comes along – it’s hard to ignore. Produced by Heather Henson (daughter of Jim) and directed by Raymond Carr, Hitori is the story of a puppet boy in a hostile world of puppeters trying to make his way home.
Screened at festivals worldwide, Hitori (which is Japenese for “Alone”) was inspired by black light puppetry theater and based around a Japanese style of Puppetry known as Bunraku. Wanting to create a film where the puppetry was never hidden, but actually played a major role in the storyline, the director looked upon the task of getting his viewers to connect with an “inanimate object” as a challenge. “I was interested in making a story with a character that people cared about”, says Carr, “who had a personality all it’s own but was obviously never really alive. At no point are we hiding the fact that the puppet is just that, and inanimate object, yet hopefully the audience cares if the character lives or dies”.
With only ever 8 bodies on the screen at once, Carr and his team were able to create their aesthetic by shooting the puppet and foreground bodies against a green screen and then keying in the other background bodies later. Feeling more like a piece of experimental theatre, imaginatively captured on screen, Hitori’s dialogue-free, monochrome journey won’t be for everyone’s tastes, but it truly is refreshing to see puppetry brought to the small screen with a more serious and emotive angle. Having just wrapped his latest short Pets – the story of a young woman who owns a creature pet – we’ll hopefully get invited into Carr’s unusual universe again sometime soon.