The Eagleman Stag


Reviewed by: Andrew Robertson

The Eagleman Stag
"A looping delight of metaphysicality and biology."

A squall of strings, and there is suddenly a flash of what is presumably a life and at the end, which is near the beginning, the foetus speaks: "Yes, this seems about right."

Structures of white foam, card, paper, something else, perfectly constructed, lit, are animated with the sudden and striking perfection of life itself, somewhere on a sculptural continuum between impressionistic naturalism and naturalistic impressionism and as subtly and ably constructed as a line like: "this half pint makes my hands look huge", as balanced as the diagetic subtitle for "too much to take".

It plays with colour "a deep and brillant red", and the blue of a slow-worm, but not colour - to say more is to hide mysteries that the film conceals and constructs and reveals with cutaways like skull-masks on children, buildings bisected by progress, the wash of light on shades of white.

Construct the word, a process of development that means there is a taxonomy of memory and progress, "infinity in a plyboard desert", a striking and ludic violation of a fifth wall, time having been struck down by motion, emotion.

The titular stag is not a stag, but a beetle, the Eagleman a man but not an eagle, the protagonist's progress, Peter, across waving fields of grass, a circle.

David Cann is the voice of Eagleman, sonorous, deep, Tony Guilfoyle who also appears hasn't done a short since. It might be the vagaries of a jobbing career, or it might be that few could touch the ludicrous quality of this one and so there's no point in doing another.

Benedict Please provides sound and music for his brother's film, which, staggeringly, was a debut. Hewing the illusion of life from foam, like the pre-Cambrian effervescence, a bubbling wonder, a monochrome multitextural marvel.

The film is available for you to watch on Vimeo, and you should take advantage of that opportunity. It won a BAFTA, deservedly so, and elements of it are perhaps reflected in one of this years animated short nominees, Mamoon. A skeletal hand taps an hourglass, waiting - you should not. Short film can be difficult to acquire - not everyone has the chance to catch them at festivals, and despite hopes of an Internet-enabled long-tail not all the smaller treasures can be caught. This is not one of them. A looping delight of metaphysicality and biology, that verges from microscopy to archeology, bas relief, entomology becoming etymology - if you say the word fly often enough, closely enough, it sounds like life. A spiralling mountain of triumph, a delight, and one, most importantly, preserved (for now) for you to see.

Reviewed on: 18 Feb 2018
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If you repeat the word 'fly' for long enough it sounds like you are saying 'life'. This is of no help to Peter. His answers lie in the brain of the beetle.

Director: Michael Please

Writer: Michael Please

Starring: David Cann, Tony Guilfoyle

Year: 2010

Runtime: 9 minutes


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