If pinscreen animation isn’t the least popular technique for making a short film, it’s certainly in the running. The films it produces can be striking, based in subtle shadings and stark contrasts, but the technique itself is absolutely numbing—in the NFB’s case, a board with nearly a quarter of a million individual pins to be pushed in and pulled out in each frame, getting brighter or darker based on its position.
Some of the most memorable pinscreen animation, like the introductory parable from Orson Welles’ take on Kafka’s The Trial, don’t use motion at all, and you can understand why. But Jacques Drouin’s Mindscape is constantly shifting. Clouds rolling along in the sky, shadows drifting across landscapes, and surprisingly fluid character movement all have their place in the film.
Not that marveling at the amount of work that went into Mindscape (or any other work) is the best way to enjoy it. All that effort only matters because of the effect it creates, and Drouin makes the most of the pin screen’s hypnotic presence. Everything in the film’s world feels fluid; what may look solid one moment can melt away the next. The dramatic chiaroscuro lighting is unsettling at times and welcoming at others, from the hard lines of the minotaur’s maze to the softness of an earlier sunset. Drouin used the pinscreen because no other technique could create quite the same effect—and no one else could use it as masterfully.