“How does Torrey Pines utilize specific anecdotes and perspectives to relate to the viewer on a personal level? Comment on the overall effects of retelling a narrative through a personal lens.”
There are a multitude of anecdotes and perspectives in Torry Pines that many people could relate to. At one point or another we all had to dissect an animal in biology class, had an argument with a parent, wanted to drastically change the way we looked. There is a multitude of ways viewers could relate to the events displayed in Torrey Pines. Personally, for me, the grandmother in the opening of the film struck a chord with me as the vast majority of my family struggle(s) with addiction. Drinking, smoking, you name it. The creators pushed this even further in the small section where the girl has the smoke blown into her face by the grandmother multiple times. We all know what that nasty cigarette smell is like and how unpleasant it is to have it blown directly into our face. When the kid has the smoke blown into their face repeatedly, it is to have that memory (and maybe even the smell for a moment) of having cigarette smoke blown into our faces. By showing the same action multiple times, the film reaches further back into your mind and makes you connect to it on a more personal level; sort of a visual recall effect. Another example of trying to reach the viewers on a personal level is the concert scene towards the end of the film. Almost everyone has been to a concert with someone they know/care about. In the scene, the kid is watching a Whitney Houston concert with their mom and enjoying the moment with the mother and everyone else around them. The artist is on stage singing, the lights are low and everyone is in the same moment together. At the end of the day, the mother and her son enjoyed the concert and afterwards were able to stay peaceful with each other. Though not something I personally relate to, but many others do, is the topic of struggling with being transgender and not knowing what to do. At one point in the film while the kid is showering, she imagines being able to cut her hair shorter, remove her breasts, grow facial hair and become a man. The daydream is suddenly cut off to reveal the kid becoming frustrated, standing alone in the shower, not comfortable with the body that they are in. Though still a common issue for people due to the world’s political state and other factors, being transgender in the early 90s was just as difficult, if not more. People didn’t understand it, people didn’t want to talk about it, it was a very delicate subject. Many viewers of this film will be able to relate to this struggle as many, even some people you may know, struggle with this issue 24/7. Showing the struggles the kid goes through in the film will not only help people relate personally to the story, but also be reminded that they are not alone in that situation.
“How does Torrey Pines develop characters and narrative successfully without dialogue?”
Torrey Pines develops characters and narrative without dialogue mainly in three ways. Through the use of sound effects, exaggerated action and at some points (mainly the very beginning and towards the end) small little plays in which the characters dialogue becomes personified. The only sounds to come out of a character’s mouth are grunts, groans, shouts, etc. At no point to full sentences come out of a character’s mouth. At times a slight utterance of a word may come out (“hello” is said in a muffled fashion a few times), but never a fully and clearly pronounced word. Through the use of exaggerated movements and psychedelic experiences throughout the movie, we are able to see changes in the character slowly progress. Something a character may have done in the ending of the film may be something they wouldn’t have done or supported in the beginning of the film. Once reoccurring visual shown throughout the film is the main character using superpowers to communicate how they feel or what they want. For example, when her and her mom are arguing over what she should wear, the character becomes visibly frustrated. Their eyebrows slant, her mouth shape becomes a scowl, and as mentioned above, they grunt a couple of times. This works to communicate to the viewer that the main character is upset, but the artists take it to a whole other level. When extremely irritated, the main character shoots fire out of their mouth and incinerates various items. While this is not a normal act in the real world and would most likely lead to visit to the ER for a mysterious diagnosis, the mother just seems rather shocked but then takes no further action and acts as if it is normal behavior. This visual exaggeration of emotion gives a shock factor to the audience and makes moments such as this more memorable. We later find out that all of these extreme visuals are hallucinations viewed by the schizophrenic mother. Through the use of these visual exaggerations and limited grunts and groans, we are able to see how a character develops throughout the story as their reactions to certain events change as opposed to how they would have reacted before. At one point towards the end of the film, there is fully audible dialogue during a Beauty and the Beast reference in which the Beast enters the lives of the girl and her mother, but even at this point, not much of the audio is used to convey narrative and character development. That is done after the Beast is first introduced. Audio then goes back to being a compilation of screams, grunts and whines. Narrative is further driven by the visual discussions that the characters have with each other (mainly the mom in the beginning and towards the end of the film. For example, when driving back from their trip to Arlington cemetery, the mom appears to ask the girl about a conspiracy theory (likely one she believes due to her psychosis) she believed involving aliens and the president. How do we know this when no actual words are coming out of her mouth? The artists animated symbols and characters coming out of her mouth and interacting in a manner that goes along with what she is saying. These moments are extremely short and presented in a manner that does not distract the viewer from the main story.
How does Torrey Pines’ animation technique/style speak towards and support the themes explored in the story?
Torrey Pines’ animation style speak towards and supports the themes explored throughout the story by having both contain experimentation and a need to be creative. Much like the animation style itself, the main character comes up with creative ways to get through her day, much like how the animator(s) had to use creative techniques to get through the animation process of this piece. Another way in which the animation style relates to the themes in the story is matching the “unease” factor visually with what is appearing on the screen. For example, in the scene where the girl imagines herself naked in a dark room giving birth, the animation style changes to a darker, more “on edge” visual. This ties in with the overall unsettling factor that most would feel if they were experiencing the same thing. This causes a more direct relation with the viewer and therefore a more intense emotional response to what images are being shown. When the mood in the scene is lighter (such as when the main character begins playing piano with her friend), the animation is smoother. Most films use a higher shutter speed or less frames per second to create a harder edge motion look and intensify the overall visuals. Think of the opening scene to Saving Private Ryan. By filming at a higher shutter speed and creating a more hard-edge look, the intensity of the scene is increased ten-fold. If they were to have used a lower shutter speed (which would have resulted in smoother motion) the scene would not have the same effect. Since this is stop-motion and shutter speed isn’t a variable that can be manipulated to create the final movie, the artists instead move the pieces a greater distance to replicate this effect, while keeping the frame rate the same. At the end of the movie we learn that the mother in the movie is a schizophrenic that kidnapped her child to take her on a cross country trip. Much like her delusions and visual hallucinations, visuals to her can become very abstract and sometimes quite unsettling. Using the watercolor and cut out art process along with exaggerated facial shapes during hallucinations helps match the mother’s overall psychosis to the art style. If the mother is going over the deep end and is currently unsettled by the visual hallucinations she is experiencing, then the art style and technique adapts to this to put the viewer deeper into her shoes. A common occurrence in the film is the kid becoming frustrated with the mother when she begins to speak about one of her delusions or doesn’t let them do something. As the character becomes more agitated toward the mother, their facial features become more exaggerated. Fire shoots from their mouth, eyes turn reptile-like, etc. If the mother is experiencing a hallucination, the viewer is right there witnessing it with their own eyes as well. This abstract style not only helps communicate the story to the user, but also helps them understand the struggles the mother is facing while trying to make a better relationship with her child (even though that involved kidnapping them due to a delusion).