As the European Union film festival comes to a close, I highly recommend Thursday night’s animated feature, Rocks in My Pockets. The artist-director Signe Baumane says, “I sometimes call it ‘a funny film about depression’ but it is not always funny and not always about depression. It is a family’s history of mental breakdowns from 1903 in Latvia until New York in 2014.”
The animated film, narrated in Latvian with English subtitles, is beautiful and striking. Baumane uses papier-mâché stop-motion and classic hand drawn animation in order for viewers to enter intimate inner lives of characters whose humanity will resonate with you even if you haven’t experienced mental illness.
The story isn’t an easy one to convey—after all, apart from its symptoms that often manifest in behavioural issues and emotional difficulties—mental health is a nuanced and complex internal struggle, which is why animation is an interesting mode.
It allows Baumane to get out of reality as we know it in order to enter the land of the metaphysical, where a psychologist’s head can turn into a toad and where the main character can battle against enormous claws that represent the pinching pain of mental suffering. To see suffering come to life on the screen gives it a kind of immediacy that would have been impossible had she used another kind of medium.
“[In] my humble opinion it is the best medium to depict truly adult subjects and complex themes, as it has the appropriate level of abstraction, something that live action medium is short of. Animation, especially, is very effective in visualizing a person’s inner state of mind, something that is always hidden,” explains Baumane.
At the intersection of Latvia’s tumultuous history and Baumane’s own family story going back to her grandmother and grandfather, the artist-director is able to weave in a multiplicity of themes including romance, politics, the history of psychology and pharmacology, gender inequality, genetics and much more with humour and irony – and remarkable honesty.
Don’t miss the opportunity to see this film. Director Signe Baumane will attend the screening to introduce and discuss her film. A reception hosted by the Embassy of Latvia will follow. Check out the trailer here:
The European Union Film Festival kicked off on the 13th with a lineup that highlights the best and never-before-seen-in-Ottawa contemporary cinema from—you guessed it, the European Union. The festival showcases 27 films in 23 languages over 18 days—possibly the most diverse fest of its kind. Screenings take place in the auditorium at Library and Archives (395 Wellington St). For the full schedule, and ticket information, click here.