04 June 2011

Saori Shiroki's The funeral (2005)

This is the first in a series of four posts examining the work of Saori Shiroki (銀木沙織, b. 1984). Shiroki began making animation while a student of painting at Tama Art University. She continued her study of animation with the graduate programme at Tokyo University of the Arts where students receive guidance from a number of top animators including Koji Yamamura and Yuuichi Itoh (i.toon animation).

I first encountered Shiroki’s work when her film Night Lights (夜の灯/Yoru no hi, 2005) was selected by Yamamura to be featured on the Yokohama ArtNavi. Like Yamamura, Shiroki’s work has been influenced by European and North American independent animation. She uses a paint-on-glass technique reminiscent of the films of Aleksandr Petrov and Caroline Leaf. This direct, under-the-camera technique involves a process in which artwork is continually being destroyed as new artwork is created. When properly executed, the technique has the effect of being a kind of painting in motion.
A scene from The Street which captures a similar mood as The funeral

My first impression of The funeral (2005) was that it begs comparison with Caroline Leaf’s The Street (NFB, 1976) which also concerns itself with the death of a loved one. Both animated shorts use paint-on-glass animation to evoke the complex emotions associated with mourning. Based on a story by Mordecai Richler, The Street is narrated using voice actors. In contrast, Shiroki has chosen a much more impressionistic approach. There is no dialogue or narration, only the melancholic music composed by Shirou Murakami.

Hunched mourners walk along a desolate path, presumably on their way home from the funeral (left image). In the home, a woman sits at a table with her head bowed, another person sits alone huddled in the corner while a female figure peer s in the doorway to check up on him. An elderly woman recites tales of the past and two male shadows appear on the wall: wraithlike creatures bringing her stories to life (right image). After the loss of a loved one, our memories sometimes become cloudy and we remember only series of impressions or images of the event. Shiroki’s use of paint-on-glass, a technique which leaves traces of the movements that have gone before still on the screen, adds to this impression of memories blurring together in one’s memory and also expresses the sorrow of the event.

The funeral is an evocative, beautifully realized film and quite sophisticated for such a young animator.  My only regret was the film was only two minutes long.  Despite the sorrowful subject matter, I could have watched the delicate flow of images for many more minutes.
Catherine Munroe Hotes 2011
The next post in this series: Night Lights


2004 Fumoto no Machi (麓の町, 6‘15“)
2005 Night lights (夜の灯/Yoru no hi, 3‘45“)
2005 The funeral (1’53”)
2007 MAGGOT (2’45”, silent)
2010 Woman who stole fingers (指を盗んだ女/Yubi wo nusunda onna, 4’15”)