Timothy David Orme’s director statement for today’s featured selection, fulcrum, is spare, yet expansive in meaning. It is modest, meditative, yet suffused with wonder—befitting a film that possesses these same qualities:
As an animator I’m obsessed with motion and rowing is such a unique, meditative movement. In the right environment, you can close your eyes and just connect with everything.
I always wondered what it would be like to row so hard that your connection to the world pulls the world around into different rotations…
fulcrum is a lovely film and an even lovelier viewing experience. It is a work of great technical achievement (it took Orme 5 years to complete) yet it is also a somewhat unusual choice for Short of the Week. I dare any to challenge our programming team’s bona fides when it comes to animation—I have a deep and abiding love for the medium, fostered as a kid obsessed with comics and anime (I remember mailing cash and blank VHS tapes to the local fansubbers who would graciously send them back with 2-3 episodes on them) and my co-founder in Short of the Week is a designer whose early filmmaking experiences came through animation. Our first Short of the Week pick was an animated short and we champion the form as much as any non-specialists I reckon.
However, even as a team of animationphiles, we consciously shy away from artsy, abstract animations for coverage on the site. We are a generalist outlet, and so much of our early self-definition was via the concept of “storytelling”. S/W selections that tend towards the experimental still need to appeal to a general audience and should either a.) have coherent and relatively accessible themes that are, ideally, profound or b.) should be so undeniable visually that non-animation-lovers cannot help but be wowed by them. Often scale plays a role in this latter criterion—I think of works like those from Boris Labbé whom we have featured.
fulcrum is an interesting test for this, admittedly arbitrary, heuristic. I don’t think the film gets there on point a.). Orme makes the case, noting that he has, “always been interested in liminal spaces and fractal geometry, and this film was a way to work through those things. The Fibonacci spiral is everywhere and influences so many things so naturally, effortlessly.” yet I don’t necessarily agree with the film’s logline about revealing “the math of universe”.
There is a clearer argument on point b.). The early portion of the film is simply good animation physics—a virtuosic command of motion from Orme, but not revelatory. However, the stellar sound design and score that accompany the film’s slow pull-out into fractals is hypnotizing. I had let my mind drift away for a short time, but the film, via sheer patience and confidence in its conceit, slowly roped me back in. I ended my viewing transfixed. Furthermore, I realized that, because of the scale, it provides the sort of emotional beats and thematic satisfaction that I felt was missing earlier. As your mind drifts to the immensity of the universe and an individual’s insignificance within it, all sorts of metaphysical and teleological musings invade one’s mind. The experiential effect of criterion b.) retroactively satisfies point a.).
Orme has a less gloomy interpretation perhaps than mine. And, as we began this review with his words, we’ll let him end it as well:
Well said, Timothy.