Bright, colourful, wonderful animation from the Irish filmmaking team that brought you The Secret of Kells, new short Old Fangs is what I imagine the offspring of Wes Anderson and Vincent Van Gogh might look like. Now that’s got to get your attention!
Funded by the Irish Film Board, Old Fangs tells the story of three friends who embark on an Alexander Payne-esque road trip, not necessarily to find themselves, but for one of our characters to achieve a sense of closure. It’s an evocative piece of storytelling with minimalist dialogue. With its rich, warm, autumnal colour palette and earthly sounds of trickling water and birdsong, the film initially presents us with a sense of comfort and calmness, but the haunting musical score and Adrien Merigeau’s slick and stylish direction help take this trip on a much darker journey.
Old Fangs centres on one of the three young friends, Wolf, who, along with Fox and… let’s say Cat (it’s a little unclear), travels to meet his father who we realise through a series of flashbacks, he has not seen for many years. The flashbacks show the little Wolf, close to his mother, and attempting to please and emulate his strong, masculine father. But he is not the man his father wants him to be. In one key scene, we see Wolf Jr. gently place a ladybird onto a leaf and seconds later, with pounding, testosterone infused music, Wolf Snr. pounces on and kills a deer demonstrating his masculinity and the gulf between the two. A strained, tense relationship is the result of years gone by without reconciliation between father and son.
The gulf becomes much more apparent when we meet Wolf Snr. for the first time. He’s an enormous figure, a drinker and a smoker and a complete polar opposite of his fragile, tender and softly spoken son. This scene is nicely framed with the table being in the middle of the shot, with father and son at either end demonstrating the distance between them on a characteristic level. A mustard-yellow background in Wolf Snr.’s house evokes a feeling of paternal authority in his own domain where he alone is master. Years of being alone have made him bitter and angry, and even now at the table the father still cannot connect to his son. There has, and will always be, one feels, conflict and a gulf between them.