Artist Birgit Scholin realizes a surrealistic portrait of an extraordinary kind in her clay animation piece entitled Family Portrait. The family depicted acts in silence and without exhibiting the slightest semblance of connectedness – a pair of siblings bathe in a tub, children play alone, a mother knits, a father reads ¬– each seen in different corners of one single room. In addition, the richly detailed set made of plastic and fabric, as well as its nostalgic atmosphere of dreariness is reminiscent of scenery by Czech animation master Jan Švankmajer. The historical period in which the film takes place is not explicit. Scholin is far more concerned with insights into social relations that transcend generations: “It is about cramped and oppressive living conditions, isolation and hopelessness,” as stated by the jury upon awarding the film “Best Austrian Animation” at One Day Animation Festival 2013.
Scholin cites a grave from the Hallstatt era on exhibit at Vienna’s Museum of Natural History as her source of inspiration. The individual positions of the seven-headed family suggest that the people were buried alive. In Scholin’s film, the family members ultimately wind up together in one big bed. Curling up for “eternal sleep,” they become covered with black earth. This mood shift is supported by the soundtrack, as an improvised, atonal accompaniment by Frederic Broderips transitions to Johann Sebastian Bach’s “Du, oh schönes Weltgebäude”. As revealed by other works in her oeuvre, with Family Portrait Birgit Scholin manifests an uncompromising fusion of truth, desire and memory.
Translation: Eve Heller
3 min 27 sec