Directors Rodrigo Gudiño and Vincent Marcone’s “The Facts in the Case of Mr Hollow” is a creepy animated film that zooms and pans in a visual waltz of details and in certain moments even lurches impossibly into the photograph looking to collect together the clues of the crimes it depicts and obscures.
In the first frames the camera holds on a letter that notes that “enclosed is the original photograph . . . look closely . . .” Our instructions are clear.
A perspective that can, against the laws of physics, explore the photograph is what entices me here. The animation plays with image and depth in the same way the protagonist Deckard (Harrison Ford) did in Bladerunner with his Esper photo Analysis. In both cases it becomes possible to enter the photograph, see around corners, overcome the limits of the photographic perspective.
Part of the allure of this is narrative for me: the odd pleasure during family holidays when I tell an old family story from my perspective and my little brother chimes in with some detail I’ve forgotten, something my memory left out or maybe could not see from where I was standing. To be able to break past the limits of the photograph’s perspective offers a similar extended and layered pleasure.
Another part of the allure here is simply voyeuristic: what if the limited field of vision of the camera or even our own line of sight could be overcome. The perverse pleasure of seeing becomes unstoppable.
Ultimately, the narrative in this photograph disappoints a little, particularly the final reveal. But it’s an animation experiment, a visual play, that should be celebrated. I defend this in the same way I defend Mike Figgis’s Timecode (2000), a film told in four frames, each comprised of a single feature-length shot, all four shot simultaneously in a ballet of cameras (each trying to avoid recording the others as they and their characters come across one another.
The subject matter disappoints but what it accomplishes in terms of showing us new ways of seeing, on the technical and aesthetic levels, warrants tribute. If only someone would make a horror film using the same technique now.
“The Facts in the Case of Mr Hollow” was nominated for a 2008 Genie Award in Canada, screened at festivals across the world, and won “Best Animated Short” at the Fantasia Film Festival.
– R.W. Gray