736. The Periwig-Maker – Steffan Schaffler

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SUMMARY: A wig maker in 18th century London isolates himself in his shop to avoid the effects of the Plague.

WHY IT’S HERE: Steffan Schaffler’s ‘The Periwig-Maker’, based on Daniel Defoe’s novel ‘A Journal of the Plague Years’, is an astonishingly dark and beautifully made stop motion puppet animation. Schaffler worked alongside his sister Annette, who wrote and produced the short, for five years to create the film’s exquisitely intricate sets and expressive puppets. The material may at first seem a little static to be a natural choice for animation, as the wig maker records his thoughts and observations on the Plague from his self-imposed isolation. However, the film is filled with brilliant little moments glimpsed through windows and enhanced by the eerie combination of lifelessness and haunted emotion that can only be captured so effectively in stop-motion puppets. As the voice of the wig maker, Kenneth Brannagh is a perfect choice and he recites the dialogue with a detached but spookily alluring eloquence. Elements of the supernatural begin to invade the story in its later stages but there is an ambiguity that suggests that these are in fact the result of a mind addled by encroaching madness or disease. Certainly the haunting final image suggests a man who is no longer in control of his senses and whose actions may well have been his downfall. Much is left to the imagination in ‘The Periwig-Maker’ and yet visually it is so brilliantly detailed that the viewer can drink in the superb rendering of 18th century London even as they wrestle with the ambiguous story that takes place there.

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