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Short Film: I Live In The Woods

23 January, 2009
Shown at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, Max Winston’s I Live in the Woods has been creating some buzz lately. It is available for download at the iTunes US Store in the Sundance section.
Now, if you don’t have a US iTunes account because you don’t have a credit card or live in another country, it is in fact very easy to get one – all you need is an email address that you haven’t used to sign up for any account from Apple previously. Instructions on how to get an account (no credit card necessary) are here. Once you get an account, you’ll find all sorts of free goodies on there apart from the ten Sundance short films as well.

Get these films NOW, because they will only be available until Jan 25 – that means there’s just TWO DAYS left! I recommend you to get them all, there’s some really good quality in there. I’ll be reviewing/analysing some more of them soon.

SPOILERS FOR THE FILM FOLLOW THIS REVIEW. PLEASE WATCH THE FILM FIRST BEFORE READING (It’s only three minutes!)

In an age of CG animation, it’s always refreshing to see a good old-fashioned stop motion piece every now and then – but a lot of critics often laud stop motion animation films simply because of their nature. I’d read a couple of good things here and there about I Live in the Woods, but as I started to watch it I feared it was going to be one of those films. It starts out with the Woodsman frolicking about and singing about his love of the woods and woodland creatures, like in something you’d see on Sesame Street.

As the Woodsman goes on about loving “the little critters”, he suddenly begins to tear them apart – literally! This kid-friendly happy-go-lucky song and dance routine suddenly becomes a violent exposition of cruelty, as the Woodsman rips apart the jaws of deer and smashes in the faces of flying piranha. He then proceeds to challenge the only person who tells him what to do, the Man in the Clouds. In a logical but strange procession of the story, the Woodsman attacks and murders the Man in the Clouds.

I Live in the Woods is the story of a man who claims to love the nature around him, but in a fit of happiness goes on slaughtering all around him, leading to a final confrontation with God – whom he also slaughters. The first shock of seeing the Woodsman rip the woodland animals to pieces was a disgusting sight, but I think it’s an excellent way to tell the story. From shock to shock, Winston takes you further into taboo situations, asking uncomfortable questions.

The film can be interpreted in many ways, but I saw it as an exposure of the hypocrisy of our (or maybe specifically America’s) perception of God and winner-take-all mentality. In all his gory actions, the Woodsman is still singing in verse (albeit the switching of the background music to heavy metal) and taking ultimate joy in his dominance and control of the woods around him. Our idea of living in the woods is one of being in phase with nature and living off the earth, but the film takes the opposite direction in showing us a character who asserts sheer human dominance and power on all.

And then there is the topic of god. The man, having asserted his dominance over the woods he loves, challenges the moral authority, seeking to overpower god himself. That he achieves it comes as no surprise, as he continues on his happy rampage of victory and carnage. I interpreted this section as the continuation of human hypocrisy; we ordain a moral authority for ourselves, only to usurp it whenever we feel it is necessary. Of course, this viewpoint is conditional of the idea god is a human creation.

The last line of the film as the Woodsman takes God’s place is a particularly interesting one: “Not that this should make anyone feel weird … just another white guy with a different coloured beard.” This line makes this short film a great one for me. I see it as showing the winner-take-all instinct of people in general.

8/10

Am I over-analysing this three and half minute film? Do you have a totally different idea of what it’s about? Leave a comment …

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Max W permalink
    6 February, 2009 8:26 am

    Dude, I found your review before you let me know about it on vimeo. Amazing review, seriously. You totally get it. A few small points you brought up had not previously crossed my mind, but that’s ok too, I wanted to get people’s brains stirring with this film. I’ve been reading lots of reviews for my film online, and it has been hard to find good, or constructive criticism. Some reviewers see the blood and gore and seem to dismiss the film as having any meaning, idea, or thought. I’m glad there are people that are able to realize that just because a film is fun and gory, doesn’t mean that it’s automatically meaningless. Anyways, Your review really blew me away. Feel free to email me, here’s my website http://www.hunteachother.com Also, are you really 15, like your profile says?

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