Friday, May 1, 2015

Shaun le mouton

Shaun le mouton is a clever little lamb,the clear bellwether of his flock and a clever manipulator of human and canine mental states. He mostly uses his powers for harmless pranks and playful indulgences, like television and (human) snacks for the sheep. His mortal enemies, the pigs, are individually clever and mean-spirited as a group, but somehow content (or incompetent enough) to stay in their human-designated pen and simply provide sniping laughter from the peanut gallery when his schemes go awry.

One day, his usually mild antics take a sinister turn when they cause the semi-abduction of the farmer, accompanied by a memory-obliterating concussion. The synergy of the displacement of mind and body results in the birth of a new person: the owner, sure, with his shearing skills intact, but with a zen-like lack of mental clutter, no memories of his past and no (apparent) desire to seek the mystery of his presence. The humans in this perverse, inverted world, all present a similar awareness of the present and lack of curiosity of the past, while the sheep (and, to a lesser extent, the other farm animals) have a more familiar human-like long-term memory and perpetual, low-level anxiety about plans to restore the farm, infiltrate the city, escape the dogcatcher, etc. As always, dogs are the go-between, exhibiting characteristics both partly-animal and partly-human.

The forbidding impossibilities of the outside world alternately form apparently-insurmountable barriers to Shaun et al.'s quest (passing as human, finding the farmer in a city of people) and are glossed as trivial (physics, probability, credulity, fashion). Yet somehow, this dissociative horror film wraps up all existential questions with a simple return to the status quo, all within a deceptively short 85 minutes, packed with basic questions of existence and purpose, as well as some pretty funny sight gags.

This reviewer also enjoyed the French localization. Sheep, of course, even in ominously-sentient-scheming form, do not speak (save "baaaaaaaaaa!", Shaun's spine-tingling catchphrase), but the human signs and written materials appeared in French, despite cultural indications that this was meant to be English countryside. Consider it another point chalked up for the weird, skew, not-quite-real universe of the film, contributing to the playful yet disquieting tone of the piece overall.

The movie was cute, and I am in a pompous mood. This is the result.

This post's theme word is barmecidal, "unreal," or "giving only an illusion of something." The animated clay figures present an allegory for the trials of real life, a barmecidal universe plagued by only a few of the true daily onslaught of existential challenges.