Saturday, June 7, 2014

Review: Trid An Stoirm


This short animated film by Windmill Lane Pictures has picked up a few awards, and manages to tell a haunting story in its seven-minute running time. Check it out here.

A young woman (Alice, according to the end credits), is mourning the death of her husband, presumably lost at sea judging by the opening shot of a ruined fishing vessel. She is joined by an ancient Banshee, whose necklace she snatches in a bid to bribe her way to the land of the dead to find her husband and bring him back to life.

Perhaps it was just because I knew that Katie McGrath voiced both Alice and the Banshee, but I couldn't help but be strongly reminded of Merlin. Alice and the Banshee taking a barge to the land of the dead was reminiscent of Morgana and Morgause travelling to the Isle of the Blessed, and though there was never a Banshee on Merlin, she’s rather similar to Gemma Jones’s portray of the Cailleach as a gatekeeper of the dead. Finally, the conclusion of the film relies heavily on the Balancing Death’s Books trope, which was very much a staple part of the way magic worked throughout Merlin.

While I won’t give away the twist ending, we’ve all heard enough legends to know that when you make a wish, you should not only Be Careful What You Wish For, but that it’s crucial to be very specific about what it is you want. The film plays this trope like a violin when it comes to Alice’s mournful words to the Banshee: “bring him back” and “I have to bring him home,” before she follows in the footsteps of Orpheus and Eurydice by travailing the land of the dead in search of him, stalked by both the Banshee and the film’s most visually creative element: several skeletal-yet-muscular dogs that do the Banshee’s bidding.

Though the animation of the human figures make them a bit expressionless and plasticine-like, the movement of the choppy ocean and the flowing robes and hair of the Banshee are striking. I couldn’t help but notice that Alice actually looked a bit like Katie McGrath, but she actually does a much better job of capturing the ancient voice of the Banshee (I guess all that chanting and cackling as Morgana paid off), and the Banshee herself – not some helpful spirit, but a dark creature of magic – is the film’s most memorable aspect.

It’s short but haunting, and successfully hinges itself upon the oldest theme in the world: death. Specifically, that it hurts like hell and there’s nothing we can do about it. Even in our fiction (as we see here), it somehow feels like less of a story if the division between life and death is breeched too easily and without consequence, and this abides by immutable rule of all ancient legends: that meddling with the laws of life and death come at a great cost. Take seven minutes out of your day to watch it.

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