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A Peculiar Imagination [Jamie H. Scrutton, UK, 2018]

This intriguing animated short deals with themes familiar to us all, from birth to death and everything in between, situating the audience within the artist’s (Jamie H. Scrutton) considerations of his own mortality. The film thematically weaves us through his psyche and fantastical perception of the values of love and the aspects of re-birth and their impact, before we reach the inevitable final moment in our lives, demonstrated by using clever visual cues and motifs within a stop-motion animated framework.

The central character in the film (credited only as "The Artist" and played by Scrutton), takes us on a well-constructed journey of his own visual thoughts as to where his mental psyche is and how it might evolve. This is the core interest of the film, exploring themes of reality versus imagination and thus informing the film’s title. The visual cues both serve to enable the narrative to move forward but allow the viewer to know exactly how he is embracing these emotions, his thoughts and perspective. Given that there is no dialogue throughout, this is no mean feat.

Scrutton's chosen visual representations pertaining to life, death and re-birth are well established tropes that do raise questions in terms of the film's efficacy. These are, perhaps, questions for the individual viewer to consider for themselves and which the director offers the opportunity for us to answer, using the film to incite a debate about our own perceptions of mortality. This appears to be the primary goal by the film’s denoument, with the reality-versus-imagination thesis placed front and centre of its narrative structure.

Jamie H. Scrutton in 'A Peculiar Imagination' (2018)

The visuals are strong, well presented and dynamically animated, and the journey from birth to death via love/temptation leading to the riddle of the meaning of our being is, within its slender running time, a very composed accomplishment. The score and sound design provided by Kevin Macleod - a generous musical pioneer allowing his works to be utilised by independent filmmakers for free as long as a credit is given - are inspired, from the opening sounds of thunder and dark texture to the score, inviting us to be scared and skilfully shaping our reactions, as all good scores and sound edits should.

Given the film's duration (just shy of 5 minutes), the story is concisely presented and with all the moments of unease in the right places. The visual texture and score merge well together, mapping the journey the artist would want us to see, and his use of symbolism is perhaps the film’s greatest strength. The choices made in taking us through the feelings of fear, love, hope and acceptance of death sit well enough within the tonal structure and themes projected to us. If more time could have been spent exploring these feelings, the emotion of the piece would have been more strongly felt.

The visual information being presented to the viewer would achieve more if allowed to breathe a little more and, for some, possibly requires a second or third viewing in order to accomplish a logical and complete eye-to-mind journey. With a longer running time, we may be afforded a better and more comprehensive insight into Scrutton’s peculiar imagination.


'A Peculiar Imagination' was a film submission in consideration for Short Focus Film Festival 2018.

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