It’s no secret that we at Quickdraw are big fans of Malcolm Sutherland, and have been since at least as far back as 2005’s Birdcalls. His recent work has been consistently exceptional, from the cyclical structure and emotionally subtle character animation in 2010’s Umbra to the more sober reflection of 2015’s Deathsong.
As accomplished as those works are, none of his other films prepared me for what’s on offer in This. Abandoning the distinctive character animation of his previous films, This is a work of pure abstraction, but the art, which consists almost entirely of white dots and lines on a black background, is as clear and communicative as anything Sutherland has drawn. Such a simple design, it illuminates the intent behind the Buddhist chanting it documents in an instantly understandable way—the struggle for connection, the merging of individual voices into a larger whole, and the brief, vivid moment of transcendence.
One of the things I appreciate most about Sutherland’s films is that he’s never too keen on imparting a moral, and instead leaves his art open to interpretation. This takes the same approach, illustrating the calm and connection that meditation aims for, rather than advocating for it in any sort of intellectual terms. It’s more effective that way, anyway, and makes for a peaceful retreat when things seem overwhelming.