02 September 2011

A Child’s Metaphysics (こどもの形而上学, 2007)

Koji Yamamura’s playful animated short A Child’s Metaphysics (こどもの形而上学/ Kodomo no Keijijogaku, 2007) is a delightful rumination on what it means to be a child. The film has unjustly received very little critical attention since its release as it was overshadowed by the success of Franz Kafka’s A Country Doctor (2007) – which won Yamamura top awards at almost every international festival in which it competed.

Children are a constant theme in Yamamura’s work. He has made animated shorts for children – such as the Karo and Piyobupt films (1993) – and has illustrated many picture books for kids. He has also done animation workshops with children. His award-winning film Your Choice! (1999) was completed using ideas from “junior directors” at his children’s workshops.

A Child’s Metaphysics concerns itself with the limitless imagination of children – a topic Yamamura has previously taken on with Kid’s Castle (1995) and Bavel’s Book (1996). Against a textured yellow background, an episodic series of surreal vignettes involving children with oversized heads drawn with black ink unfolds. Each short episode concerns itself with the fundamental question of the nature of being. One child’s head is transformed into a giant magnifying glass, another’s head is expanding full of numbers, another holds a watering can over his ear so that a sprout grows out of it, another child catches her own tears in a glass for safekeeping, while yet another child tries to fit a large key into a keyhole on his own head as if trying to unlock the secrets to his own existence. The film is by turns touching and amusing.

The vignettes are all drawn in the same style, often with a theatrical piece of cloth or other theatrical element decorating the scene. They are all tied together by the music of Prokofiev which has been arranged and performed by the microtonal pop duo SYZYGYS (Hitomi Shimizu and Hiromi Nishida).

A Child’s Metaphysics can be seen on film at the Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography as part of the Muybridge’s Strings Road Show between 17 September and 7 October.

For people not lucky enough to be in Tokyo, it can also be found on KimStim/Zeitgeist’s Franz Kafka’s A Country Doctor and Other Fantastic Films by Koji Yamamura. Please support this independent animator by ordering his work now: