While I was at SCMS in Boston in March I picked up a new collection edited by Jayne Pilling – Animating the Unconscious: Desire, Sexuality and Animation. It’s an interesting combination of scholarly essays, interviews with animators as well as pieces that visually explore the creative process. It’s great timing, as I’m including a discussion of Ruth Lingford‘s 2010 film Little Deaths in my book (which I’m currently working away at to my September deadline). The film, which is about orgasms, was finished after I completed my PhD. While I included a chapter on animating emotions and deeply subjective experiences, such as mental health issues, in my dissertation, I didn’t get to explore the issue of desire.
In her chapter on memory, desire and animating the sexual event in Pilling’s book (see info section for full details), Karen Beckman asks how animated films document real experiences of sex and desire and, also, what understanding of sex and desire we are left with as viewers (see p. 188). Lingford’s film is mostly monochrome (white on black background) and at times abstract. Over these evocative images we hear the comments of anonymous interviewees, describing their experience of orgasm. Lingford herself has described the film as quite sad. I agree, and I don’t think this comes just from the words we hear the interviewees describe (themes of connection and loneliness run through what they say). I’m still thinking through where this impression of melancholy comes from, visually. But I think it’s partly to do with the way the animated images seem to float against the inky-black background, seemingly unanchored in space in a way that accentuates the individuation of the experiences being described.