As I was exploring, and, admittedly, getting lost in the National Gallery, I couldn't help being ensnared by 'The Thames below Westminster' (1871) by Claude Monet. It jumped out at me because although it's mystical and aesthetic, I could tell that Monet wasn't glamourising the scene and it is essentially a documentation of what the Thames was like at the moment Monet observed it and so it holds a similar fascination for me as century-old documentary photographs. It also shows London in a state of industrial development which has caused me to think about the evolution of the city of London and how it seems to epitomise contemporary global society.
I foolishly chose to disregard it at the time as I didn't see any narrative potential. However, it stuck in my mind and as I began my research for thematic inspiration by reading 'Landscape and Memory' by Simon Schama, this painting seemed to embody many of the ideas about cultural history that were of interest to me. It will also make this project a kind of site-specific artwork as it will give me the opportunity to reflect upon my acquaintance with the city of London this year. I moved to London for the first time in October and it is a truly fascinating place - I would love for it to feature literally in my final project. Hollywood treats LA, and otherwise New York, as the centre of the universe; London is often spoken of in a similar manner by Londoners and in the media.
I have also been reading 'The Ultimate Encyclopedia of Mythology' by Arthur Cotterell and Rachel Storm and am attempting to plough through it cover to cover. It is concise and a good starting point, although it disregards any kind of mythology outside of Europe and Asia! In my research, I have been keeping an eye out more for mythological figures that represent a particular kind of relationship towards the environment and figures of life, death and renewal, breezing over the love affairs and warriors.
My current idea is to animate a journey upstream from London to the source of the Thames in a similar attitude to Marlow's journey to the Heart of Darkness. My tale will move in the opposite direction to Conrad's, geographically, temporally, spiritually and conclusively!
The character is thrown into the river from the middle of Millenium Bridge during an apocalyptic nuclear war in London, whereupon time is frozen. As the character travels upstream, they travel backwards through the millenia to the source of civilisation in Britain, where they become assimilated into the landscape. Along my character's journey upstream, I wish to incorporate various mythological motifs. There is a risk of the film becoming too cluttered so I may have to limit myself to Celtic mythology.
My character will drift, unconscious, on her back, serenely flowing through the water. She awakes to find herself transported upstream by a current that takes the form of various extinct species from England throughout the ages. The camera spans over the landscape with great exertion of speed at times, always following the river. Our character catches up to indicate the great distance she covers and the inconsistency of time. As the river narrows, she is passed from the backs of fish to animated water droplets that carry her beyond the source of the river. She is then passed to the blades of grass and carried to the peak of a mountain. When the grass is gone, she is tossed up by the wind in somersaults. Sitting at the top of the mountain, she somehow becomes assimilated into the landscape, e.g. she transforms into a seed, flower or acorn, is blasted upwards and then into a forest.
I am trying to achieve a tricky balance between:
1) creating a conventionally structured and easily grasped narrative that will appeal to every audience.
2) challenging the assumption that all animation must be commercially accessible, experimenting with unconventional narratives/ non-narrative forms, e.g. depicting an experience rather than an event.
Of course, it would be a mistake to venture too far in the latter direction, as this is a character animation course, after all and by definition needs to focus on the animation of a character! It could also be professionally irresponsible of me to scare away commercial studios by rebelling in this way, but it's a risk I'm willing to take.
Epic, I know, but it doesn't have to be longer than a minute. When people speak of their life flashing before their eyes, it takes but a fleeting moment. Likewise, I want to attempt to contain the impression of tens of thousands of years. Hey, it wouldn't be exciting if it weren't a challenge!