Written by: #AgnèsPatron
Agnès Patron’s animated short, 'And Then The Bear' (L'heure de l'ours), lacks the comfort of a traditional narrative and this will make the film less accessible to some viewers. However, its distinctive and vivid imagery will shock and capture the audience's attention, leaving you pondering the true damage that neglect has on a child's psyche.
And 'Then The Bear’s' narrative is difficult to piece together, as it is told through the eyes of a boy whose life is thrown into turmoil with the arrival of a dangerous man into his home. We are presented with dark images of the imagination that blur the lines between reality and falsity. We are initially greeted with a calm setting of a homestead, remote and isolated, but we are soon dropped into the dark world that the neglect of the boy's mother has caused in his mind.
A crucial aspect of this narrative is the art style of the animation, which further compounds the child’s eyes through which we see the film. With a unique and minimalist technique, the world is constructed of a limited palette, which serves to highlight the disturbing nature of the film. A sense of tension is built with the use of unsettling imagery, akin to that of David Cronenberg, as we slowly see the boy be stripped of his childhood innocence. This horror-esque style is sprinkled throughout the film where we see burning homes across the screen, a metaphor for the broken homes that cause the loss of innocence within children.
This visual tension is bolstered by a rhythmic score which builds to a point where we see the boy entering the woods, riding bears to the sound of the peculiar music. This passage of the film feels more like a mood than a story, as the images began to cut and change in rapid succession, the marching of the bears ridden by children, our protagonist beating his mother, burning homes, and interpretive dance by hollow-faced childlike figures.
Although these images are idiosyncratic and unforgettable, the film will be hard to follow for some viewers, and I found myself more impressed by the imagery than the story itself. Patron may have intended this as the film has no dialogue and intends for the images themselves to be this story but, although very unique and beautiful in their horror, the story becomes lost behind the overwhelming art.