I’m a little shocked that I haven’t featured any of Emily Downe’s films in this blog before. Films like Spinning Record and The Redness of Red strike a sweet spot in their blending of scientific curiosity, philosophical depth, and expressive art. They aren’t the most accessible films you’ll come across, but the raw drawings and unusual rhythms perfectly suit the questions they explore.
Better is a bit more polished, but no less provocative. A commentary on perfectionism, it alternates between the serene perfection of a constructed world (illustrated in a clean, serene style that’s quite distinct from Downe’s previous films), and a looser, more chaotic reality. The jarring transitions between these clashing artistic styles make the real world’s anxiety-inducing intrusions painfully apparent.
The narration can be taken a number of ways, and whether the careful sculpting of reality is a commentary on our increasingly curated social media personalities, or a broader desire for control that can manifest in so many ways, Downe captures the emotion behind the perfectionist impulse. She also captures its perils–the emotional repercussions and the inevitable failure inherent in any attempt to keep everything under control.
It’s a great short to start the new decade. The desire to make things better is a healthy one, and the world we live in has plenty of potential for improvement. But “Better” doesn’t mean perfect, and without letting a little of the chaos in, without listening to “the rhythm of the jungle,” the result won’t be a better, it’ll only be artifice.
dir: Emily Downe
syn: A short animated film which questions the ideal worlds of a perfectionistic culture.
Exploring research through storytelling, the film is based in a fantasy jungle that acts as a portal for idealised worlds to become external.
Funded by Barbican Film Grant: Life Rewired
Read full interview here >>>>> barbican.org.uk/read-watch-listen/life-rewired-shorts-better-by-emily-downe