642. The Apprentice – Richard Condie

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SUMMARY: An apprentice jester learns the perils of trying to run before you can walk when he strikes out on his own and cannot seem to navigate his way around a fruit tree.

WHY IT’S HERE: Canadian animator Richard Condie’s short films are an acquired taste but though they are strange they generally have recognisable qualities that bind them, in some way, to reality. ‘Getting Started’ focused on that most human of practice, procrastination. ‘The Big Snit’ had fun at the expense of our trivial arguments in the face of much more important issues going on outside our windows. This combination of the real and the bizarre is what has made Condie one of the latter day greats of animation. But with ‘The Apprentice’, ‘Condie created a short that is altogether baffling to most people, even as they find it inexplicably hilarious.

‘The Apprentice’ follows the adventures of a young jester in a medieval kingdom who, against the advice of his older and wiser companion, takes a different route on his journey and immediately runs face first into a tree. Knocked unconscious, the young jester comes round and tries again, with the same result. Inexplicably magnetised to the tree, he cannot navigate his way around it without ending up flat on his back again, bonked on the head by the falling fruit and laughed at by the nearby flora. When he ultimately tears off his nose in the attempt to continue on his journey, the jester turns back where he is greeted by his former companion, who has a new nose ready for him!

Somewhere wrapped up in ‘The Apprentice’ there seems to be a message about the importance of experience and the consequences of youthful arrogance, but the anarchic nature of the piece also suggests that it may not be intended to be taken that seriously. Condie’s trademark style is evident but he has purposefully made his characters look even more scrawly, so they resemble children’s sketches, and their ugly appearances are reflected in their gurgled gibberish language. Many have found ‘The Apprentice’ impenetrable while many have also found it hilarious. It is undoubtedly the latter but it is also a fascinating and unique piece which seems to have a lot of substance beneath its absurdity, even if you do have to work very hard to reveal it.

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