Hedgehog in the Fog

My friend Eddie just posted a link to a film called “Hedgehog in the Fog” on YouTube. I watched it, enjoyed pieces of it, didn’t enjoy several others, and now I’m feeling quite shallow. Let me explain. (Warning, some spoilers ahead. I recommend watching the film before reading further.)

For the first minute or so of the film, I really enjoyed it. The style is very playful, disarming, and unique. The folks who worked on the film are obviously very talented designers and animators.

Then I got further into the story and my feelings shifted. I started wanting a concrete plot. As the story progressed, it began making less and less sense. I understand that the hedgehog is disoriented and scared, and that the world is a beautiful, mysterious, frightful, wonderful place. I also understand that sometimes it’s nice to see new things, and sometimes it’s nice to be in a familiar place with familiar friends. Outside of that, though, the whole film felt like 95% style and 5% story to me. Heck, even 99% style and 1% story.

The thing that I’m calling “shallow” in myself is that I don’t enjoy those ratios, at least not in film. Or in books, for that matter. In music, dance, and visual art those ratios are fine. I don’t really need a concrete story in those art forms. (I suppose I’ve proven that by my love of Beck; you’d be hard-pressed to come back with anything very concrete from any of his songs.)

For some reason I hold film and books to a different standard than music, dance, and visual art. I’m not sure why exactly. I think it may be because film and books are highly capable of telling a deep, intricate story with lots of detail and dance, music, and visual art would have a very hard time matching film and books in that way. So I let them off the hook, so to speak, and expect something different from them. When I think of the movies and books that I tend to prefer, they’re all fairly plot-driven (e.g. Harry Potter) and not as deeply metaphorical or stylistic as some of their counterparts. I’m struggling to come up with a “counterpart” here because I tend not to read those kinds of books. Let’s say Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf. But that’s exactly my point. It took me two minutes to come up with that book and two seconds to come up with Harry Potter.

So, is that shallow? I do occasionally enjoy an artistic film. 2001: A Space Odyssey is actually one of my all-time favorites, and we can all agree the plot breaks down quite completely near the end of the film. But films like that are certainly an exception for my favorites list.

Has anyone else felt the way I do on this issue? What are the pitfalls of this perspective on art, and should a person strive to move beyond it? If so, how can that leap be made?

2 Comments

  1. Posted January 20, 2008 at 5:04 pm | Permalink

    I considered going back into the entry and adding this there, but I want to leave it as-is, so I’ll just add this here.

    I think perhaps the primary difference between these two groups of art is simply the use and inclusion of words, and how words are used. When you introduce words in an art form, you may also be introducing logic into that work. Plot is logic.

    Visual art and dance usually don’t contain any words, and thus the amount of logic they contain is much lighter, or at least of a very different type. (I acknowledge the minefield I’m stepping through here.)

    Music obviously does contain words quite often, but the words are usually of a different type than novels and film since they usually rhyme and are set to rhythm. In the case of music, the level and type of logic in the song depends heavily on how the artist uses the words included in the song.

    So perhaps my issue is that I’m only attempting to grab onto the logic of books and film rather than accepting their aesthetic side. And yet in the absence of anything I recognize as logic, I’m willing to accept aesthetics.

  2. eddie
    Posted January 21, 2008 at 10:06 am | Permalink

    It’s the journey and the metaphor that sweep me. The medium transcends the medium instead of viewer transcending himself alone. In the former there is a moment when we realize we are seeing part of our soul displayed, that we’ve found a kindred. I don’t think these kinds of expressions forget logic. In fact, I think it tips its hat to it as it whooshes past. Words(with the exception of poetry) are a parachute, perhaps; words are chopsticks. Not by any means does that allude that one can’t ruminate on art, sometimes that’s where the really juicy stuff is. But art is a portal to a space that logic and words can’t always reach. And the style is not style for the sake of itself, it’s part of the passage.