Adam and Eve Raised Cain

We all know how hard it is for talent to emerge in the art field. That is why from time to time, in my own small way, I have tried  to give voice to young promising artists; some of them went on with their careers with excellent results, as did Fulvio Risuleo whose work I wrote about and who then won the first prize of the “Semaine de la Critique” at Cannes Film Festival.
I say this not to brag about my farsightedness, but in the secret hope that Bizzarro Bazar might turn out to be bringing good luck also in the future: today I would like to present you with a curious Italian stop-motion short film which in my view is a true little gem.

Entitled Adam and Eve Raised Cain, it was written, directed, animated and edited by Francesco Erba, born in 1986, from Bergamo.
Before discussing the short with his author, I advise you to take some 20 minutes off and let yourself drift into the fark, disturbing atmosphere of this little film.

The short film starts off with a declaration of love to Sci-Fi B-movies from the Fifties (Jack Arnold, Roger Corman, Bert I. Gordon  and their giant radioactive monsters), and goes on to pay homage even to the father of fantasy in motion pictures, Georges Méliès.
But the true references here are to horror and science fiction film directors from the Eighties, Carpenter, Hooper or Cronenberg. These nods are perfectly inserted in their context (an all too rare occurrence these days): the main character’s passion for monster movies, for instance, becomes a pivotal dramatic element in a scene where the child’s toys are sold, a psychologically scarring moment for little Albert.
Any citationism, even when done with a purpose, entails the risk of breaking the spectator’s identification, projecting the public “outside” of the film, and lessening its emotional impact. It could be because of the visceral and painful nature of the themes addressed in this short, but Francesco Erba succeeds in the task of creating an even stronger connection with his character: it’s as if, when observed through the filter of the American movies the 80’s generation grew up with, Albert’s trauma became more recognizable, more humane – despite his rough stop-motion puppet appearance.

Since he was a child, Francesco has been living and breathing cinema. How could he tell a tale of fear and love, if not by going back to those films which frightened him or made him fall in love?
This, in my opinion, is the admirable subtlety of Adam and Eve Raised Cain, a sensitivity which many narratives of nostalgia lack.
Behind the animated film facade, behind the entertainment, Erba is depicting a world of solitude and mental cages. And whenever he relies on some vintage stylistic elements, he’s not throwing them to his audience like peanuts just to stimulate some cinephile pavlovian response: he is using them because, to him, they still represent the best (maybe the only) way to really tell us about the wounds and anguish tormenting his character, both a victim and a perpetrator.

I asked Francesco Erba a few questions about his work.

How was this project born, and how did you manage to make it happen?

The concept for Adam and Eve was one of many sitting in my “Ideas” folder, on my laptop. After spending much time working with and for others, I decided it was time to shoot something new for myself. Sifting through the folder (and discarding all million-budget ideas!), the one that was left was a live-action version of Adam and Eve.
I started working on it, inserting new elements and focusing on the structure until I realized what I was really trying to tell: my film was about imprisonment, in all its possible meanings.

Once the script was completed, it started to dawn on me that this film could – should – be realized in stop motion: enclosing some puppets in a 1.5x1m box would cartainly take this idea of “imprisonment” to the extreme.

I knew all too well that to shoot this film in stop motion, as I had it layed out and with the resources at hand, it would take at least 2 years of work. I had to prepare a complete storyboard, character studies and preliminary drawings, set and prop construction, sculpting and mold making, motion tests, all leading up to several weeks of shooting in a dark room. And then the digital effects, and compositing the live actors’ eyes on the latex puppets, a process that had to be done frame by frame…

I mustered up all my masochism, started filming, and in the end I discovered I was even too optimistic. It took nearly three and a half years to complete the short movie!

Was the choice of stop motion limiting or did it give you more freedom? Which challenges were the most tough in producing the film?

Stop motion, which I do not consider just an animation technique, but THE animation technique, has an unquestionable charm which transcends time and technological innovations. But it can also be a real bitch!
If on one hand it allows full artistic freedom even on a tight budget, on the other it is certainly demanding in shooting time, shooting process, scenic design (sometimes down to miniaturization). Every aspect needs to be considered in advance, carefully calculated and measured, and you very often have to use your ingenuity to bypass problems: if I cannot move my camera, then I need to build a slider rig, and so on.

All these limitations, I think, really disappear when looking at the final result, at what you can create with this incredible technique. Take for example the movies produced by Laika today: they teach us that stop motion, although very old and almost the same age of cinema itself, has no limits other than those dictated by budget or creativity.

Adam and Eve seems to tap into the current vein of nostalgia for the 80’s (Super 8, Stranger Things, the San Junipero episode from Black Mirror, etc.). Did any film in particular inspire you? Is there some director’s work you had in mind while writing the script?

The short was filmed back in 2011, before this new wave of nostalgia for the cinema of the 80’s and 90’s (at least I chose to put it online at the right time!). Inevitably, it ended up containing many elements from the films I grew up with, which are now part of my DNA; these are references I cannot leave out of consideration.

Actually when you think about it, even those cinematic references coming from my imprinting are enclosed, like the rest of the story, in a chinese box system. Besides the cinema from the 80’s and 90’s, I chose to include some references to the films those very directors took inspiration from and sometimes plagiarised, namely monster movies from the 50’s. Taking it to the extreme, as I did with every aspect of the short, I went even further, paying homage to Méliès himself.

Sometimes directors get asked to summarize in few words the style they’re aiming for. My answer, right from the start, was: “think Rob Zombie doing stop-motion animation”. A coarse, wicked, sharp and sometimes repulsive style, which had to be recognizable in each aspect of the film.
But ofcourse I’m semplifying. If I think back to all the directors who inspired me, it might look like a meaningless list, and yet in Adam and Eve‘s world of opposites and extremes they make perfect sense to me: Carpenter, Cronenberg, Jackson, Spielberg, Selick, Park Chan-wook, Harryhausen, Quay, Svankmajer, Peter Lord and Aardman, Laika… they all influenced in a creative way the approach I chose for this short film, and its genesis.

The film shows extremely adult themes: phobia, alienation, family violence, unwanted pregnancy, despair. Yet all this is filtered through obvious irony: the handcrafted animation and the homages to the imaginary of American cinema make the film a “second level” experience. I personally find this ambiguity to be one of the strenghts of the project. But in your intent, should Adam and Eve be seen as pure entertainment, or taken more seriously?

This is one aspect of the “research” which I very humbly try to carry on with my work. One of he constants that can be found in everything I’ve done until now, from short films to music videos, from a pilot for a children TV show to the feature film I’m working on, is a search for the limit and the balance between two opposite extremes.

Using stop motion (which is often regarded as a technique for “children movies”) to tell an adult story, making an adult film about imprisonment, alienation and phobias with latex puppets, this is already a strong combination. To “cage” a real actor’s eyes inside the puppet, thus closing him within these narrow limits, to me is a further exaggeration of this concept. If you then imagine myself, the animator, stuck in strange positions and “prisoner” of a small dark room, the narrative gets really dizzying!

And what about the entertainment? Well, I’m not one of those who think cinema has the power to save the world, but it certainly makes it a little better. To me, films should not try to give answers, just to ask questions and create emotions.  It you’re looking for important answers, you’d better get a ticket for the museum, rather than for the movie theatre.
According to this philosphy, Adam and Eve is of course to be taken as a visual experience and not just as an artistic research: I think the scenes in which I “physically” enter the main character’s brain to show his past. make it clear that it’s also meant to be a product of pure entertainment.

This short film must have been quite a training ground. Will you continue with animation? What are your future projects? 

I am finishing my first live action feature film: here my personal research has evolved even further, as my movie is narratively and stylistically composed of an investigative report, a mockumentary and a more “traditional” film.
In the last few months I have been working on a TV animated puppet series for 5/6-years-old children, a project I very much believe in, and which gave me the opportunity to experiment with a different kind of animation.

As for stop motion, its “call” is very strong, despite the huge sacrifices that Adam and Eve demanded. One day I would love to be able to film my peculiar horror version of Peter Pan, or another small short film on Tesla and Edison.
A director’s work is often based on human interaction and mediation… I confess I sometimes miss being alone in my little dark room, moving my puppet’s head frame after frame!

Here is Adam and Eve Raised Cain Facebook page.

Bambini adulti

Parliamo nuovamente di parafilie. Questa volta affrontiamo una di quelle pratiche feticistiche/sessuali che sembrano talmente improbabili da risultare “finte” o “esagerate”. Eppure sono cose che avvengono realmente, forse più frequentemente di quanto saremmo portati a pensare. Guardate il filmato qui sotto.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wibiey7I3jc

Quest’uomo che è vestito e si comporta come un bambino di pochi mesi è un appassionato di infantilismo parafilico. Se lo definiamo “appassionato di”, e non “affetto da”, è perché nella psicologia moderna è in atto una sorta di rivalutazione delle cosiddette parafilie. Oggi risulta più evidente che certe pratiche non hanno alla base una vera e propria patologia comportamentale o mentale, ma sono spesso paragonabili a terapeutici giochi di ruolo. Secondo alcuni psicologi, quindi, non andrebbe enfatizzato il carattere deviante di certi interessi, quanto piuttosto il loro aspetto giocoso. Resta il fatto che vedere un adulto scimmiottare gli atteggiamenti di un bebè può far ridere a prima vista, e inquietare in un secondo momento. Cerchiamo quindi di capire qualcosa di più sugli adult babies, come amano definirsi i devoti di questo genere di pantomima.

Bisogna innanzitutto distinguere l’infantilismo parafilico dal feticismo per il pannolone. Quest’ultimo è semplicemente il desiderio di indossare il pannolone senza una reale necessità, ma non implica automaticamente comportamenti puerili ed è riconducibile ad una più generica fissazione per certi capi di vestiario. Queste persone, che amano indossare il pannolone regolarmente, sono chiamati amanti del pannolone (diaper lovers, o DL). I “bambini adulti”, invece, sono attratti da una vera e propria regressione totale allo stadio infantile: non soltanto pannoloni, quindi, ma ciucci, biberon, peluche, lettini con le sbarre e tutto l’armamentario normalmente riservato ai neonati. (Gli adult babies sono, nel gergo, contrassegnati dalla sigla AB, mentre quelli che amano entrambi i “filoni” sono denominati AB/DL). La maggioranza degli AB sono, manco a dirlo, maschi ed eterosessuali.

Innanzitutto chiariamo una cosa: nessun “bambino adulto” va accomunato alla pedofilia, in alcun modo. Gli AB non hanno desiderio nei confronti dei bambini, vogliono soltanto diventare bambini. Secondo molti studiosi, gli AB non avrebbero addirittura alcuna libido, e non ci sarebbe in definitiva granché di sessuale nei loro giochi. Per qualcuno si tratta di liberarsi completamente da ogni costrizione comportamentale: essere liberi, sereni, senza sovrastrutture, completamente istintivi. Per altri si tratta di rivivere esperienze infantili, seppure idealizzate ed idilliache. Per altri ancora, lo scopo è trovare l’amore materno mai provato, o ancora avvertire quel misto di eccitazione e vergogna che si prova quando “gli altri scoprono che ti sei fatto la pipì addosso”. Ovviamente i gusti individuali variano considerevolmente, e ogni AB predilige certi accessori o determinate situazioni specifiche.

Un’altra distinzione che conviene fare è quella fra infantilismo e anaclitismo: quest’ultimo è un bisogno di appoggio che rende il soggetto sessualmente stimolato da oggetti con cui ha avuto un contatto durante l’infanzia. Se per esempio da bambino sono stato più volte esposto, in specifici momenti, al velluto, da adulto potrei sviluppare un feticismo per questo tipo di tessuto. L’infantilismo parafilico si differenzia da questo bisogno, in quanto si riferisce normalmente a una sorta di “archetipo” del mondo infantile. Gli AB si trovano a loro agio con le farfalle appese al soffitto, gli orsacchiotti e i ciucci colorati, il borotalco e i seggioloni, indipendentemente dal fatto che questi oggetti abbiano avuto un reale significato nella loro storia individuale.

Rileggendo le righe appena scritte, ci rendiamo conto che abbiamo segnalato tutto ciò che i “bambini adulti” non sono. Purtroppo esistono pochi studi scientifici su questa parafilia, anche perché pochi sono i soggetti che cercano cure specialistiche per questa loro “passione”. Restano quindi ancora nebulosi alcuni interrogativi che sorgono spontanei: è possibile comprendere se ci sia una causa per questo comportamento? L’eccitazione che gli AB provano è puramente mentale o anche sessuale? Cosa spinge un uomo ad esercitarsi per mesi al fine di diventare incontinente? Perché alcuni AB nascondono la loro ossessione, mentre altri la esibiscono anche in coda al supermercato?

Se vi interessa indagare questo stravagante mondo, il sito Understanding Infantilism può essere un buon inizio (a patto che mastichiate l’inglese). Un altro buon articolo (sempre in inglese) che cerca di delineare un fedele identikit dell’infantilismo si può trovare qui.