TheNFB at VFF2021 Part Two: Analyzing I, Barnabé

21 Jan

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By Ed Sum
(The Vintage Tempest)

National Film Board of Canada
Victoria Film Festival: Animate Me Shorts Program beginning Feb 5th, 2021

Spoiler Alert 

Click here to buy tickets (disclaimer: region locked to BC residents)

Barnabé is a pastor having a crisis of faith. He can’t take it anymore in this ethereal animated short by Jean-François Lévesque.

This character wants to end his life. To see him taking to alcohol to numb his senses is only a start to a wild and woolly ride of his past, his present and what may come in a Dickenson type of tale. The gothic tropes are nicely used to showcase his deterioration, but it’s his journey which takes on a different tone.

The animation methods to showcase his life has varied meanings, and I’m sure I’ve figured it out. Most of this work is done in stop-motion, and it highlights how stuttered this man’s life is. The drop in frame rate is intentional. But as he progresses through the various stages of his depression, the motion becomes much more fluid, and the style changes. The 2D and CGI represent other aspects of this character’s troubled mind as he sees all he’s done; it’s used to represent how he can transcend beyond his doubts. Heaven is traditionally hand animated, and the Aether which separates these worlds is a very realistic whirlpool of water. It’s a fantastic way to depict different quantum realms as he travels through, much like Ant-man. The irony here is that Barnabé is significant!

Even the rooster takes on different meanings. It was a metal decoration, but when lightning strikes it, the pastor assumes it was destroyed. But instead, it transforms into simulacrum of Barnabé. Massive spoilers follow beyond this point. You have been warned.

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We are introduced to Barnabé turning away from his religion–denying Christ into his heart (according to worldbird.com). When he’s fighting the cluck, he’s obviously frustrated with his life. But as the bird becomes even more like him, this fowl is less like Foghorn Leghorn and more sinister. But even afterwards, and one of the two dying, the cock is as gold as the sun–perhaps a phoenix from Chinese religion–and allows one of its feather come loose for the man grasping at straws, as though he’s at an end. If he is to accept the gift of resurrection, he doesn’t have to cross the veil at all.

Lévesque hatched a wild metaphysical journey of how to find light at the end of a tunnel. The narrative is a wake up call. It’s best not to have doubts, and in the job Barnabé decided to take for life, it’s best to have unshakable faith too.

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