Tuesday, 6 October 2015

小提琴 / Xiaotiqin / The Violin

For my first animation impressions in a few months – a break I took while I set up a new life in Japan, plus a temporary shift towards watching live-action properties – I thought something simple and artsy would be a nice idea. So this cute little animation project that made some ripples online seemed to fit the bill.

The Violin is the first animation on my blog from Singapore. Indeed, it’s the only animation from Singapore I know of, though I’m not unfamiliar with the country – it’s where my uncle lives and I’ve visited many times. A short animation from a small studio called Robot Playground Media, the film uses simple visuals reminiscent of European comic books to give a brisk overview of Singaporean history over the past 80 years. There is no dialogue – unsurprisingly, the soundtrack is dominated by the instrument of the title – but the past century has been a turbulent one for the little city-country, so there is ample opportunity to mix the schmaltz with big historical moments, and the one scene not in Singapore is of one of the atomic bombs falling on Japan.

Essentially, the concept is a lot like War Horse, only with a musical instrument rather than an animal and a story that stretches over decades rather than years. But it is similar in that the violin passes through the hands of a series of characters on the edge of important historical events. After being given to a boy on the quayside of 1930s Singapore, it is lost when the boy’s family flees the Japanese invasion, before being picked up by a representative of the allies after the war ends and given to a girl who becomes a famous violinist. As she hones her craft, Singapore struggles for independence, and later establishes a strong identity and becomes the city of skyscrapers and shopping malls it is today.

The animation is simply-executed in Flash, and while at times it is clumsy enough to be called lazy, at other times it is delicate and artful and certainly can be praised for the effort that has been put into a small-scale project.

This is a piece of animation very much tied up with its country of origin, and unashamed of it. It’s a Singaporean animation that celebrates the history of Singapore, and can show a wider audience something of Singaporean culture and national identity. It may not redefine storytelling or animation as an art form, but it doesn’t need to. It’s a small-scale animation that touches on major events, and well worth the time it takes to watch it.  

No comments:

Post a Comment