960. Bydlo – Patrick Bouchard

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SUMMARY: Images of a beast of burden rising from the earth become an allegory for mankind’s descent into disaster.

WHY IT’S HERE: Patrick Bouchard’s ‘Bydlo’ is an astonishing, almost tactile Claymation short in which the director examines a nightmare vision of mankind driving themselves to disaster. The word ‘bydlo’ is Polish for ‘cattle’ but is also used in parts of Europe as a derogatory term for the working class. It is also the title of the fourth movement of ‘Pictures at an Exhibition’, the suite by composer Modest Mussorgsky, which Bouchard uses as the soundtrack for his film. Mussorgsky’s music is incredibly evocative of back-breaking labour and Bouchard matches it with animation that looks like it was sculpted from the earth itself. The opening, interminably strenuous appearance of a huge, securely-bound ox from the ground is immediately arresting and the film gets darker as hoards of human figures begin to emerge alongside the beast and then to subdue it with their growing numbers, resulting in a desperate feeding frenzy before everything returns to earth again. Visually and thematically striking, ‘Bydlo’ is a film you can talk about for hours and even those unmoved by the plight of mankind depicted here will surely be at least astounded by the intricate, muddily spellbinding animation.

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