I wasn’t sure what I was watching once Richard Williams‘ Prologue moved past its carefully drawn flower pollinated by a bee and a butterfly soaring across the screen to wipe the page clean before introducing the sharp eyes of soldiers. Their shields and spears conjured thoughts of Sparta; the lack of clothing on the men a character study of anatomy. To me there seemed no purpose other than that: to show the human body engaged in warfare to brutal effect. But then a little girl is seen, her innocence lost in an instant. It’s this detail that gives clarity to its story albeit one of which I was unfamiliar. Thankfully the press notes explain it as an incident during the Spartan-Athenian wars some 2,400 years ago.
Is that bit of history crucial to appreciating what Williams has accomplished? Not at all. If anything it distracts from the simple beauty of the animator’s work—the short proving an almost never-ending challenge to complete in his down time amidst other projects. To think that its six-minutes consists solely of hand-drawn frames in colored pencil is astounding. Williams knows it too as he begins the journey with a vertical pan up from a pile of pencil nubs past a tower of pages bundled together in sections. This shot gives literal weight to the process and medium itself by making visible just what animation involves. We aren’t watching pixels. Prologue is blood, sweat, and tears scratched one stroke at a time with meticulous detail.
What’s more are its cinematic sensibilities. The way Williams moves the “camera” to spin around a leaf or a warrior catching his breath before being impaled must have taken years to plan. I want to see the stack of pages rejected since some sequences defy imagination. He must have flipped the pages back and forth only to notice the angle was wrong some of the time. This work ethic to stay true to what’s an archaic method deserves his Oscar nomination alone. The fact his brief look at the carnage of four men devoid of remorse moves forward with malice and a black finality simply bolsters its pedigree. Leave the kids at home, though. Its keen look at mankind’s darkness tainting the purity of hope is relentless.
courtesy of Shorts HD