Through Their Eyes
18 Mar 2022
Alisha Heng, Max Schairer
This stop-motion animated film takes the cute aesthetics of miniatures and inverts their meaning to expose dark secrets behind idyllic family facades.
A young rabbit lives with his wolf parent. Sitting side by side, they engage in separate activities. Yet there’s a closeness between them; the wolf puts his hand around the rabbit in a caring and affectionate way, admiring the rabbit’s drawings. The wolf prepares dinner for the rabbit, using a special recipe book specifically for his child’s diet. Then comes the night and all is peaceful, the sun setting on an idyllic domestic space.
The camera moves through this compact house, exploring every corner for detail and idiosyncrasy. The set is rich and vibrant, with each minor element clearly invested in with painstaking effort and thought. The movement of light as the sun rises again is particularly beautiful, gradually bringing their compressed world to life. When the morning comes, the wolf leaves for work and the rabbit is left to draw more pictures of their blissful life.
The meditative and calming music which has so far provided a backdrop falls away, replaced by a foreboding juxtaposition of crackles and growls. Intertitles appear sporadically, bringing about a tense undercurrent to their harmony. The first reads “It seems like everything was wonderful.” The use of ‘seem’ introduces the conceptual facade to their environment, implying all is not as we would like it to be. “What pushed you to the edge?” appears later, racking up the tension of what could have happened within their home.
In attempting to retrieve the rabbit cookbook from a high shelf, the rabbit accidentally uncovers the bones of other rabbits under the floorboards. Re-contextualising their space of interior safety as one of threat, we now understand the pretence of family and security to be hollow. With the illusion fallen away, their regular parent-child activities are left with only a threatening ticking clock as accompaniment. The rabbit’s lively eyes now appear blank, fixed in a faraway stare of desperation. The halcyon days of picturesque bliss are gone, and the home has become a prison.
The intertitles are revealed as police questions from a pair of other wolves, threatening the rabbit with charges of arson. The dependence on those in power to recognise that as someone without power, you are worthy of being listened to, is a further indictment of the structures which hold victims down. How can a rabbit be heard when their saviours are the same as their captors?
Through Their Eyes brilliantly inverts the expectations we have of family dynamics, particularly in the medium of animation. We look to texts such as these for comfort and reassurance that there is security and care to be found with those closest to us. Ideally that would be true for all of us, but reality is less than ideal. Sometimes that security is a lie, and even though it means losing the dependability we thought we had on parental figures, we have to burn it all down.