Re-collection, a communication analysis

A moth collector was murdered and his head, which was a bulb, was re-collected by a white moth, or presumably the one he had collected before. The peculiar yet engaging story was told in a short cartoon animation called Re-collection, produced by Luminary Productions. But why does it engage? This post highlights some of the visual communication techniques and takes you behind the magic of movie making.

Colour, lighting and music

Colour, lighting and music set the base tone of the film from the very beginning. It starts from inside the room where the murder happens. The interior of the room looks dark, antique and gloomy. This tone has basically been consistent throughout the film, thus suggests the notion of mysteriousness and looming danger.

A few piercing dissonances with intermittent lightly ‘tink’ sound in the background add to the mysterious atmosphere and build up the tension to a point of explosion when the man is suddenly knocked down by an unknown attacker from behind. When the man is knocked down, the dissonance suddenly sounds louder, suggesting drama, tension and horror.

Close-up shots

There are a number of close-up shots at the beginning of the film and each of them implies how the story will develop.

The missing bulb on a wall mounted lamp suggests the story is about taking back or returning the bulb (or re-collection). The poster and award certificate on the wall suggests the man’s expertise and achievements, which will function as a contrast to his ironic ending. The moth specimen (including a close-up white moth nailed right through its body) suggest some cruelty, thus authenticate the motivation of the murder. A box of moth balls with pills all over the floor suggests the man’s hostile relationship with moth. A few opened books on the floor, Paranormal Occurrences, Karma for Beginners and Understanding Dreams and Nightmares, point out what will happen to the man, especially as we know, Karma means ‘Law of Cause & Effect’. A blown-out candle is often associated with loss, death and horror..

Scene settings

After the man is knocked down by a sudden attacker (which is a human-sized moth if we look closely), there are a series of quick changing of scenes back and forth, from the dark snowy woods outside the cabin (a seemingly nightmare scene) to inside the cabin where supernatural things happen around this sleeping man.

It is worth noting that outside the cabin the relational size of the man with moth and insect tools (pins and tweezers) has changed, which makes the man look proportionally a lot smaller and moth a lot bigger. This change has symbolically reversed the offensive & defensive position, implying the man has lost dominance in the act of collection and will become a victim himself. The dissonance sounds loud during the conflict in the woods, suggesting tension and horror.

There is also  a scene of the man reading Understanding Dreams and Nightmares in his pyjamas in the middle of the dark snowy woods. As we all know, dark snowy woods is reminiscent of horror movies and the implication is the same here. More over, there is harsh lighting coming from the man’s behind, combined with the surrounding environment of dark woods, thick snow and tree shadows, one can easily sense danger is closing in from the man’s behind.

Camera angle

The first time when the moth comes in, we can’t see the moth, but are aware of its presence by the sound of flapping wings and its gliding shadows over the sleeping man. The camera angle is an aerial shot or from above, which is an implication of predator and prey relationship. Besides, sleeping is a suggestion of vulnerability in itself.

When the candles are blown out, the camera’s focal distance moves from foreground (the candles) to background (the sleeping man). This makes people to think something peculiar is going to happen to this man.

After the aerial shot, the camera zooms in from the man’s body to his head/bulb, where electricity sparks. And again, one might instantly sense there is something happening inside the man’s mind. Then as expected, the dream scene begins.

Twist surprises

The story in itself is a surprise. Ironically, a prominent entomologist (‘Man of the Moment’) and award winning insect collector ends up being victimised by the moth he has collected, or in other words, recollected by the moth. And such a twist will impress and make people remember.

There are other symbolic associations as well, especially the relationship between moth and light and between light and enlightenment. All add deeper layers of meanings to people’s subconsciousness.

Overall, from a visual communication perspective, the short animation was professionally executed. Although first-time audience might not be aware, these communication techniques used by the movie makers conspired to hook them in.

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