777. The Toll Collector – Rachel Johnson

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SUMMARY: A woman with unusually long legs wishes she could be a ballerina but, writing this off as impossible, she begins to submit to a life of isolated loneliness.

WHY IT’S HERE: Rachel Johnson’s lovely stop-motion short ‘The Toll Collector’, made at the legendary Trnky Studios, is a good-hearted but eerie tale of loneliness with a glimmer of hope at the end. The tale of a toll collector who hides in her booth until it is dark so the world will not see her unusually long legs, the film follows her as she gives up on her dreams of ballet and takes to knitting instead, all the while allowing her isolation to consume her to the extent that she begins to see creepy hallucinations. Touched by symbolic surrealism but generally grounded in realistic philosophy, Johnson has created a unique little film which is done a disservice by the lazy comparisons to Tim Burton which besieged it (probably as a result of the main character’s spindly legs, which are reminiscent of ‘The Nightmare Before Christmas’). This is very much Johnson’s film; written, directed, designed, animated and narrated by her. Her soft but detached narration is perfect for the wonderfully written material, which features superb turns of phrase like “this was the only way for her and she called her life happy”.

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