For a story about the beginning of life, the Christian creation myth is strangely antiseptic. There’s no real embodiment to it, no sense of the joy of conception or the messiness of birth. Instead, inasmuch as it’s even described, the creation of humanity is the act of a craftsman—form the body, add the breath of life, and voila, humanity.
For her RISD graduation film, clay animator Evelyn Jane Ross imagines a very different origin. A feminine, feminist reframing of the act of creation, Ross’ film revels openly in its sexuality. Adam depicts the process as tender and tactile, not cold and clinical. It’s a creation fueled by desire, one just as linked to the needs of the body as any of the acts that would follow from it.
The choice of clay for the film’s medium serves at least two purposes, connecting the film’s visuals to that of creation stories, while also emphasizing the role of touch even in the film’s creation. As body parts form, intermingle, and fade back into the substrate, the touch-marks in the clay emphasize the way the forms crest and ebb in sensual rhythms. It’s a wonderful visual echo, a way of making the hands of the film’s creator visible in the finished work.
The soundtrack is a perfect complement, the breath of life depicted not as some clinical or mystical act, but the breath of pleasure, satisfaction, and serenity. The sounds of water, meanwhile, emphasize the fluidity of the film’s movement, while also tying this creation to the scientific origins of life—the swirl of primordial chemicals in ancient tide pools that may have led to the earliest self-replicating cells.
Beyond all of that, though, the pleasure of watching Adam comes from the elegance of Ross’ technique. It’s simply a stunning film to watch, well crafted and well paced. If it was just a showcase for Ross’ stop-motion prowess, it’d be notable enough; that it manages to communicate so much even without recognizable characters or a conventional structure is doubly impressive.
dir: Evelyn Jane Ross
syn: In the beginning of them, She created us.
Bonus: Visit Ross’ official site for behind-the-scenes images and more insight into the film.