An Ostrich Told Me The World Is Fake And I Think I Believe It


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

An Ostrich Told Me The World Is Fake And I Think I Believe It
"Addresses existential terror with a pleasing whimsy."

Perhaps the most inventive of the five films nominated for Best Animated Short at the 2023 Oscars, Lachlan Pendragon’s playfully unnerving stop-motion work recalls the 1955 Frederik Pohl short story The Tunnel Under The World, though the frustrations it depicts are very much centred on today’s world. It opens with sales agent Neil (voiced by Pendragon himself) sitting in his cubicle trying to persuade a stranger at the other end of the phone to buy a toaster. Of course, most people already have toasters, so the call is not a success. As it turns out, Neil hasn’t had a successful call all day, and the boss soon steps in to remind him that the lowest performing employee will be let go at the end of the week. This situation may sound grim, but what Neil is about to discover is a whole lot worse.

It doesn’t begin with the ostrich (though there is an ostrich, and it’s not as gratuitous as it may seem). By the time of its arrival, Neil has begun to notice some seriously worrying things. This happens because he leaves his cubicle, forsaking his appointed task, to try to figure out a way of doing it more successfully. When a puppet leaves his appointed place on the set, details become apparent which our initial perspective did not allow for. It’s not so much what’s there as what isn’t, but that leads in turn to a much bigger and more disconcerting discovery.

You will probably be familiar with the famous experiment in which a gorilla walks through a scene and most observers simply don’t notice it because it’s so out of place. Our brains – at least those of neurotypical people – are wired to ignore information which strongly conflicts with our established view of the world. Neil has plainly been a victim of this effect, as his terrified glance outwards, through the fourth wall, reveals. There is also an element of metaphor here, of course. It’s a huge leap for Neil to think beyond a life spent working in telesales, to imagine that there might be more to life. The discovery could be liberating, but it’s also dangerous.

Darkly witty and very much au fait with the nature of such workplaces, the film reveals itself to the audience differently, a camera already in frame. Although our eyes are soon drawn to the centre, where there is sharp focus and action, enough is happening around the edges that it bears watching multiple times. It addresses existential terror with a pleasing whimsy, and the puppetry itself is immaculate. It falls apart only when the plot requires it. If you’ve ever worked in sales, you will relate – and the film’s final scenes will chill you right through.

Reviewed on: 28 Jan 2023
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An Ostrich Told Me The World Is Fake And I Think I Believe It packshot
A young office worker uncovers the flaws in his stop-motion universe with the help of a mysterious talking ostrich.

Director: Lachlan Pendragon

Writer: Lachlan Pendragon

Starring: Lachlan Pendragon, John Cavanagh, Michael Richard

Year: 2022

Runtime: 11 minutes

Country: Australia


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