Oedipus

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Let’s face it; the personification of vegetables is always funny. Yet it’s never been quite as funny as in Oedipus, the eight-minute animated film in which the infamous king is portrayed by a potato in a toga. Written, directed and produced by Jason Wishnow, Oedipus is about as good as short films get.

For anyone not familiar with the ancient Greek tragedy written by Sophocles, here’s a delightful summary: The King and Queen of Thebes, Laius and Jacosta, had their son (Oedipus) killed after learning that he was destined to kill his father and marry his mother. However, he never actually died, and one day Oedipus meets Laius and murders him, not knowing that he is his father. Later he weds and has children with Jacosta, oblivious to the fact that she is his mother. As you can imagine, all that can follow is tragedy for this doomed family.

Oedipus is not a story you would ever expect to laugh at. Yet in the hands of Jason Wishnow and his talented cast of vegetables, it’s bloody hilarious. And it’s certainly an impressive and varied cast at that: Laius is a towering and oddly masculine stalk of broccoli, while Jacosta is a curvaceous and seductive tomato. There’s also peppers, garlic, courgettes, aubergines, lemons, pears, and onions- whoever said it was difficult to eat five in one day, with such a wide range to choose from?

What’s most impressive about Wishnow’s film is his commitment to making it feel as grand as possible. Oedipus took two years to make, with a crew of over a hundred volunteers, and as a result the quality of the stop-motion animation is simply extraordinary. The attention to detail is masterly, especially the craftsmanship of the film’s sets (look out for the scene in the bar) and the costumes. The script is minimal but hilarious, and the voiceovers and grand soundtrack fit perfectly with the look and feel of the film.

Oedipus’s cauliflower sheep are a particularly wonderful touch, as are his potato peeler swords. The film also contains the best sex scene between a mother and son that you’re ever likely to see on screen.

There’s also a short behind-the-scenes documentary, Me and My Potato, which is well worth a watch, as it proves just how much time and effort went in to making Oedipus, and the level of detail required in making a stop-motion animation as impressive as this one. It’s genuinely difficult to find a flaw with this film, and it’s one that deserves to be watched over and over again. No matter how many times you watch it, it remains as charming, as spectacular and as funny as ever.

This review appeared in issue 4 of Gorilla Film Magazine.

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