THE PERIWIG MAKER – A 1999 Film About Past & Current State of Affairs

Posted by on Apr 30, 2020 in Uncategorized | No Comments

Art History professor Bill Lorenzo sent along information about a stop-motion animated short he recently screened for his History of Animation class. Here’s his introduction:

A recent on-line class my History of Animation course featuring an Oscar Nominated Animated Short Film about the 1720 quarantine surrounding an outbreak of the “plague” in London which parallels our current situation. Based on Daniel Defoe’s novel “A Journal of the Plague Year”. I am attaching introductory class notes I sent my students which include the links to an article on the film and the best quality video of the full film.

And here are the aforementioned notes and a link to the film:

 

THE PERIWIG MAKER (1999)

Directed by Steffan Schaffler
Narrated by Kenneth Branagh
Based on A JOURNAL OF THE PLAGUE YEAR by Daniel Defoe (1722)

Set in 1665 London during an outbreak of the Great Plague when 100,000 people lost their lives. At the time there was a strict quarantine order in place, and a young Defoe was taken to the country by his family to isolate themselves though his uncle Henry Foe stayed behind.

When the plague reoccurred in 1720 it inspired Defoe to write his masterpiece “A Journal of the Plague Year” largely based on the recollections of his uncle, whose initials “H.F.” underscore the final lines in the novel. (Defoe was the author of “Robinson Crusoe” first published in 1719)

In the article “Bringing Out the Dead” by Jesse Lichtenstein, he states:

The stop-action animation at work here is delightful, though not for its pyrotechnics. There are none of these to be found, and there really is no place for them in such a somber story. Instead, we’re treated to an essentially live-action palette of camera angles and framings, shadows and candlelight, and foreground-background tensions…

This is correct. The animation is straightforward though there are many subtle nuances of mood and gesture. Notice how after weeks of isolation and quarantine the main character’s eyes become dark with black circles around them (9:44).

Also, take note of the end credits. The film was done by a very small crew, with many of the principal filmmakers performing different roles. And be sure to stick with it past the end credits to the very last end title card.

Please access the version on VIMEO. It’s the sharpest copy and was uploaded by the actual production company Ideal Standard Film. Here’s the link:

https://vimeo.com/94166448

 

 

 

 

Visual & Critical Studies