Wooden mannequin contortionists, corrupted love and lost innocence collide under the glaring circus lights in timeless Magda. This stop motion animation centres on commercialism and its destructive influence over authenticity, both in art and life. And yet the 6min film is so pure in its production and aesthetic, it’s a real gem of untarnished beauty.
Magda tells the story of a man who falls in love with a beautiful circus contortionist. A spontaneous act of kindness wins the affections of his beloved, but when it’s repeated time and time again for the entertainment of the audience, it soon becomes contrived and meaningless. The story unfolds using wooden mannequins as its main characters, and alongside a cabaret aesthetic with an old school klezmer score, director Chel White has created an enigmatic and memorable short.
White based Magda on a short story by Joe Frank, a radio monologist in the 80’s and 90’s. It’s his statement against perpetual commercialism and its role in our society and particularly in his own work as a filmmaker and commercial director. As such the director wanted the stop motion animation to be as honest as possible, all in-camera and shot on 35mm film, without computer generated effects or digital compositing. The score too is original, created and performed specifically for the film, without the use of any electronic or digital instruments.
When asked what he was looking to achieve with his film, White put it simply “ art for art’s sake”, and with a love story so beautiful and incredibly touching in its simplicity, he has certainly done that. The wooden puppets have a nostalgic quality, making them the perfect protagonists for this bittersweet fairytale, their faces featureless, yet extremely expressive and alive.
White’s determination to have authenticity in his props and methods of storytelling has made what is already a difficult and time consuming job, all the more challenging. The result is simply stunning and with a poignant narrative and time-defying aesthetics, Magda will undoubtedly relate to a multi-generational audience.