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?