When you become a parent, the awareness that you now need to “provide” for a child, whose life is literally in your hands, is a heavy responsibility to shoulder. That job that you were never fully committed to, instantly becomes more of a priority in your life – even if you’d rather be at home, spending time with the new addition to your family. For Pedro, the avian-like protagonist in Gilles Cuvelier’s award-winning short (Fool Time) JOB, he has finally found the essential employment he sought in a world in crisis, but this is no ordinary work – it will change his life forever.
Set in a dreary, desolate world, Cuvelier’s 17-minute short introduces us to its lead character, Pedro, as he makes his way to a new job at a nature reserve. With a human body and avian head, with our first sighting of (Fool Time) JOB’s unusual protagonist, we’re given an early indication to expect something surreal from the story. Those initial expectations are quickly expanded upon as we witness Pedro’s experiences on his first day of work.
Stripping naked in the changing rooms in the woods – no walls, but lockers scattered in amongst the trees, along with a vending machine – we follow Pedro as he sheepishly stumbles around the reserve, we the audience as unsure as he is about what his new role entails. With the passing of time, although we’re still sketchy on the duties involved in his work, he quickly becomes accustomed to his new job and alongside the newfound luxuries (he trades his bike for a car and later takes his family on holiday – even his wardrobe changes) that come with it, he also discovers a sense of belonging and achievement.
As is often the case though, he struggles to find a work-life balance and his unusual duties at work start to creep into his personal life and change his way of thinking. With a further passing of time, he finds his life unsettled once again. Protests and riots at the reserve, over the unethical treatment of its employees (if you can call them that?), means he is without work once again – leading to further difficulties at home.
As with all that has gone before it, the ending to (Fool Time) JOB is surreal and open to interpretation. Pedro is employed once again (at the nature reserve – which is now a zoo) and this time the job includes clothes, but his family are now caged in an enclosure. What does it all mean? If you’re expecting me to have answers…I’m not sure I have them. For me, Cuvelier’s story begins as a testament to parenthood, a tribute to what parents will put themselves through to provide for their family, but strays into stranger territories (the struggle of being “present”, the loss of identity when you become a parent) as it evolves.
Just like with his narrative, the production choices for Cuvelier’s film are fairly unconventional. Portrayed in a grainy, hazy aesthetic, stripped of colour and devoid of dialogue, he has created a unique style and atmosphere for his film, which feels truly memorable. On first viewing, you might be too caught-up in unravelling the narrative to truly appreciate the craft here, but with each subsequent viewing its finer details (the background work is exceptional) seep into your conscience, building a surprisingly authentic feeling universe. We often talk about world-building in the realms of science fiction, but what Cuvelier has done is equal to anything in sci-fi – it’s the fantasy worlds that feel grounded in reality that are always the most impacting (IMHO).
(Fool Time) JOB is the latest Papy3D addition to S/W after Raymonde or the Vertical Escape, Roughhouse, The Head Vanishes, Chez Moi, Edmond was a Donkey and Palmipedarium – most of which Cuvelier worked on as an animator.