This final article about the Oscar nominated short animations is on one of the greatest animations in recent memory. The thing is, I wouldn’t even be that upset if it didn’t win the Oscar, as both Head Over Heels and Paperman are great short animations. It’s a great time for the medium.
Eden is a place that has been symbolically ripe for film makers for decades now. The ideas encapsulated in Genesis 1 and 2 are some of the oldest themes in art: the beauty of nature; the fall of man; innocence; sin. Yet it’s only really something that has been approached at a thematic level. American director Terrence Malick keeps returning to ideas about the fall from Eden, and German auteur Werner Herzog is similarly concerned with man’s place in paradise, yet both these directors only use it as a concept rather than a literal idea (Malick came close with Tree of Life). Adam and Dog, the stunning animation by Minkyu Lee, takes us to Eden itself, a world of shimmering, fish filled ponds and giant trees bursting with life, and tells a story of how dogs became man’s best friend. By setting his film in the garden of Paradise, Lee breathes vitality into the old ideas about creation, beauty and grace.
At 15 minutes long, the film takes on a neat three act structure: creation before man; the advent of man and the fall of man. These three stages of creation are seen through the eyes of a dog, and perhaps the most impressive section is the dog’s adventures before he befriends the strange bipedal creature that arrives a day later. Lee’s imagined version of a world untouched by evil is bathed in a beautiful glow, like the benevolent gaze of a creator shining through the foliage. There’s a stunning moment at night when the dog chases fireflies in the field; a wide frame showing the glory of the stars in the night sky and the wonder of this new and beautiful world. That’s the key word here; wonder. Even once man has come along, the world is full of light and colour, waiting to be explored. The dog’s big eyes perfectly capture this sense of awe at the planet, and helps the audience view it in the same way, too. When sin enters the world, everything gets a whole lot uglier and more brutal, but the final shot, representing companionship, suggests that there is still goodness left in the world, and Lee certainly helps us to believe that.
Everything about this film is beautiful, from the sound design, to the wide angled shots to the simplicity of the story. By looking at the world at its very foundations – whether you see it as mythical, symbolic or literal – Minkyu Lee causes you to see the earth with new eyes, and shows just a glimpse of the glory of creation.