Director: Kim Collmer
Running time: 7mins
Anyone familiar with the beguiling work of Smallfilms will get a delightful buzz of nostalgia from Silver Seeds. Most obviously, Kim Collmer’s enchanting animation evokes the warm familiarity of the studio’s most famous production, The Clangers. This experimental sci-fi is so much more than a humble trip down memory lane, though.
Set on a strange planet – it could be somewhere new, or it could be a Wall-E-esque post-apocalypse – the action follows two beings on an existential journey of creation, exploration, and self-discovery. Impressively, on a budget of $200, and in just 7 minutes, it manages to cover all those bases more satisfactorily than the $130 million and 7 hours of Prometheus.
The charming hand-crafted world our two protagonists find themselves in speaks of a labour of love – every fibre of the unfurling foliage is treated with supreme attention to detail. As the plants ‘speak’ to each other, the opening moments come across as if Oliver Postgate had re-made Green Planet, while imaginatively sourced sounds of the everyday serve to give these plants an audible voice for the audience.
In homage to the early adventures of stop-motion on black-and-white television, the place in question is depicted on grainy colourless film and yet, remarkably, it is so full of energy and life. Amid the placid blue-grey tones of this utopia, the imagery seems to pulse with life, as plants and beings interact as one.
Our two protagonists begin as gardeners, tending to this shimmering Eden each day – and building new structures with refuse, salvaged from a chute in the sky. This chute inevitably captures the imagination of one of the beings – who can only be described as some kind of semi-organic, robotic eyeball. Gazing toward the shimmering, swirling night sky, the being sheds a single tear from its massive, silvery optic, dreaming of galactic splendours it may never see.
In a world where each lifeforce is so closely attuned to the others, however, this tear prompts a fantastical response from the greenery around. The next day, as the two characters tend to their endless garden (using an empty tic-tac box to fashion an adorably innovative watering can), a strange cloud-like bush sprouts beneath them. As the bush grows from the spot where the eyeball’s tear initially fell, it and its friend (what resembles a Cheesestring with limbs) are then propelled into the skies above.
Having exited the world of the ‘material’ (which, considering it is entirely made of cloth, is a nice play on words), the duo finds itself in ‘The Kingdom of Light’. Here, the tone changes from wistful childish wonder to a sense of dream more common in cosmic horror than on Saturday morning television. The shift is embodied by the things used to build it – in place of the warm and comforting felts of the ‘material world’, the frame shows us a cold, sterile world of reflective foil surfaces. Having been convinced there was more to life than escaping the material to find some higher meaning, the eyeball is left not only disappointed, but actively terrified by this discovery, along with the unfeeling and destructive nature of its creator.
Without going too far into the film’s conclusion, it sees a satisfying synthesis between what the eyeball had been hoping for and the world it inhabited. Life is more than material – the mind or spirit of a being is something which does not exist in inanimate objects. But without the material that enshrines and protects that mind, there is nothing. Longing for a life that is more one or the other is pointless – life exists between these two points, and making peace with that is necessary for a healthy and fulfilled existence. What an incredible, abstract juggling act to have put together in such an unassuming and apparently comforting format.
It is incredible to think that every scrap of this living, breathing planet came from one artist. Kim Collmer provided every aspect we see and hear, except for the outro performed by Chris Collmer. That must have taken incredible feats of patience and dedication – not to mention a God-tier level of concentration – but at the same time, it shows just what is possible via animation. Artists can build holistic new worlds from the ground up, if they can find the time and energy to adhere to their imaginations. Anyone who wants to do that should consult Collmer’s exemplary work, before embarking on their own trip to the stars.