SPOILERS BELOW – WATCH THE DARN VIDEO FIRST
The real power of the piece is that it’s difficult to determine how it’s going to end. Not in the sense that an audience is anticipating a twist ending, but that it’s a challenge to determine what genre we should place it in. For most of the film’s run-time, we’re watching what appears to be a lonely inventor creating his perfect mate: a bride for Frankenstein’s Monster, a Galatea for Pygmalion. The flowery material is a dead giveaway.
Only the frequent glances at the depleting sand in the hour glass serves as an uneasy reminder that something else might be going on, perhaps compounded by the haunting violin music (is there any instrument as eerie-sounding as a violin?), the innate creepiness of stop-motion animation, and the unnerving design of the strange and toothy rabbit-dolls. It all gives us the sense that something is a little off here.
It is not until the film’s final seconds that we realize the truth of the situation: the new arrival is not a wife, but a daughter. The maker bids his creation farewell and leaves her to her own devices. Time is reset and the cycle begins anew.
On second viewing it’s even more unsettling. In those first few introductory seconds where we see our protagonist taking in the workbench and surrounding paraphernalia, we are unaware of what happened only seconds before: of what will happen again once the girl’s musical composition comes to a close. The alarm and bewilderment reflected in each pair of eyes, upon what is otherwise a completely blank face, is much more apparent the second time around.
Some commentators have already bemoaned what they regard as this film's depiction of the futility of life: we live, we fill the time with worldly pursuits, we pass on what we can to those who follow, and we die without any further meaning being derived from the situation.
More unsettling to me was the wealth of unanswered questions that the experience leaves in its wake. Who wrote the book in the first place? Who composed the music? Where do those raw materials come from? Why do we follow such a pattern without questioning the whys and wherefores?
Obviously no one can answer these things, but the film is not entirely devoid of hope.
Between the beginning and end of its existence, in those few precious seconds that are not devoted to the wellbeing of its off-spring, our protagonist experiences passion and power in the playing of his violin. It’s that which gives life, not the repetitive nature of the life cycle.
And before he goes, he gets to share a hug and a smile with his daughter. That will have to be enough, because that’s all we’ve got.