Having watched The Eagleman Stag several times, simply for the unabashed, blissful feeling of ambition that it exudes, the closest comparison that can be immediately conjured up is that belonging to a French animation entitled Les Triplettes de Belleville. The closeness isn’t derivative of any narrative structure or particularly similar aesthetic values, but for the serene, mesmeric quality that they contain; they’re both borne and raised with real individual stylistic affection that is as infectious as it is brilliant.
Furthermore, there is a real sense of reaching for the stars with Please’s film. It’s highly precarious to attempt to cover the process of the time between life and death in a short film, and tell it with such sincerity and aplomb, because ultimately you have little time to tell such a drastically impossible act of deducing what exactly life is. There is also, undeniably, some jocular irony involved from the director; considering our main character, Peter’s, obsession with the perception of time speeding up as we grow older and his trying to counteract that, it’s impressive that he is able to compress this lifetime into a mere 9 minutes.
There’s almost a tiring attitude to short film these days, in that they inevitably end up as lacklustre efforts when compared to the full feature film. Michael Please obviously disagrees and his film is a backlash against this antiquated perspective; through the construction of the entire piece this is not just a film full of narrative wonder and philosophical intrigue, but demonstrates that you should never discriminate against films of a lesser length, as they will always contain the intrinsic properties that attach to emanations of the new and bold.
This is indeed a fresh, monochrome-clad indulgence of the highest quality. It shouldn’t be understated that the development process mirrors the profound messages of The Eagleman Stag. Using dubious foam substances, crafting every element of the film with absolute precision and capturing the stop-motion animation with precise camera-work imitates the making of other aspects of the film. The musical composition is minimal, yet highly effective, the writing witty, jovial, whilst maintaining an underlying seriousness, and the sculpting crisp enough that you don’t have any rudimentary, banal thoughts of this being just another animation. The film is a homage to those who work so tirelessly on it.
Often, films will have an overriding quality that detracts from the others, but this is a different experience. Its excellence perhaps comes from the way in which it manages to remain highly intuitive and intelligent in every area and not deviate into one-dimensional structure.
The Eagleman Stag revels in the encouragement of examination through the philosophical. Underneath its ethereal, almost oneiric, contemporary film-noir-ness, it contains all the deliciousness of the modern thinker, but it still has a universality in that you can feel entirely justified in gaily rollicking in the gloriousness of its exterior. An inimitable feat of filmmaking.