An odd, animated film with an interesting social message.
Today’s film is the 2008 animated short film drama The Employment penned and written by famous Argentina artist Patricio Plaza and directed by Santiago Grasso. It is currently under review for the Fan Choice award at the Fandependent film festival for winter 2017.
The Employment is a dark social commentary on the staggering oppression of the business world in modern day life. It focuses on a man getting up to go to work and going though the daily routine many of us follow, however things take a turn for the surreal as everyday objects are replaced by ordinary people who have been forced to become those objects. People are used as clothing hangers, Mirror holders and even furniture by the unnamed protagonist of the story. All the while each of the object people’s dead eyes stare off vacantly and silently as the man uses them to make his own life easier. As the man leaves his home his face is also blank and full of sorrow as he mounts the back of another person to use as a taxi to his office. While the audience begins to feel disdain for this obvious user the man arrives at work and heads up to an office. Once there he lays on the floor to take his roll as a door mat and is trodden on by his boss who wipes his feet on the middle man’s back and disappears inside. With a sigh of resignation the unnamed man accepts his fate as the the other soulless and dead eyed men and women.
The Employment is perhaps one of the most unique films I have ever had the privileged to watch. Firstly I have never actually reviewed an animated film before and this one is especially hard giving the fact there is absolutely no human interaction at all with in the film. In most animated films voice actors are hired and their performances will either make or break the movie by making their characters come to life in a meaningful way. The Employment however takes a different path. The art style of the film truly brings depth and feeling to these otherwise dead eyed and soulless animated characters within the film. Artist Patricio Plaza’ skilled use of muted colors and dour facial expressions on his asymmetrical characters brings the characters alive and truly makes you feel the deep well of depression each of them feel as they go on with the monotony of their shallow lives.
The art style it’s self hearkens back to great works of the past like Fantastic Planet (A film that if you have not seen you simply must) and even the works of Hanna Barbara. This isn’t the bright colors of Anime or fanciful cell shading of films like Cool World, it is a stark and barren landscape of muted browns and oblong characters that add to a sense of wrongness to the very world the characters live in. With out the use of human characters even voicing the animated people on the screen the director manages to bring this dystopian future to life in a way that not only is relevant but believable to the audience and manages to keep the view locked on the screen, truly I have seen nothing like it before.
The social commentary of this film really gives a person something to think about. How often in our day to day lives to we manage to use someone for our needs at work or even in our every day comings and goings and not even give them a second thought. Most of us in our busy lives dine out on a regular basis for an example and yet to we even both to think about the waitstaff more than just wanting our needs filled?
As long as the order is correct and the service comes at a good pace we regular these people into background objects, part of the scenery. As someone who once worked in the service industry in his youth let me tell you I often felt as just another utensil for my patrons to use at their pleasure and discard as soon as it suited them, The Employment conveys this feeling perfectly. It shows us how each of us are simply cogs in the wheel of someones else lives, this not only includes the working class but even the upper echelons of society who answer in turn to their peers in one way or another. At the very end of the film however right after the credits is a sense of hope and breaking the roll that the world has seemingly placed on us and shows us the working life isn’t the only thing in life and that we can change our fortunes if we simply make the effort to do it.
The audio work of The Employment is very stark and bare. There is no musical score, nor any voices filling the ears just a sense of foreboding silence and the sounds of sighs mingled with the echos of steady foot falls. This is a bold choice that really hammers home the tone of the film and one normally I would not recommend to a director but in these case works out wonderfully. Sounds is perhaps one of the most important aspects of any film and the wrong use of music or sound effects can and will utterly ruin a film if handled improperly and when a production company tires for a minimalist approach it tends to backfire, however this is not the case with this film.
When all is said and done The Employment manages to call out in a loud and clear voice the message that artist Patricio Plaza and Director Santiago Grasso wanted to convey to the viewers and they did it all without speaking a single word. This film is truly unique and absolutely worth the seven minute run time. If you are an artist and want to get into the world of Animation then look at this film and it’s subsequent making of video on the Fandependent film site to get a very good notion of what is possible with the use of a little time and a skilled steady hand.