Father and Daughter (2000) – A Wordless Poem
Silence aptly blended with music is more expansive in evoking emotions than thousand words would. Both in literature and main stream cinema, mother’s love is more elaborately explored and is sanctified. Compared to it a father’s love is pondered the least. The contour of a father’s image is always seen in the ‘strictness’ backdrop. Often our mental picture of a father connects to a disciplinarian. So his love, though brimming, is never perceived to its fullest.
Father and Daughter is a Dutch animated short film, written and directed by Michael Dudok de Wit. The film explores the ineffable and irreplaceable love of a daughter for her beloved father who had bid adieu to her while she was a child. The film chooses the universal language, love. Hence words seem unnecessary. The vivid Dutch landscape fills the screen coupled with heart rendering music. The style of animations reveals the animator’s love for Japanese art. The animation style takes its inspirations more generously from the Japanese water paintings. The color is monochrome throughout, predominantly pales and browns.
A father and his daughter ride in their bicycle together in frame one with clarinet music filling our ears. Their intimacy is revealed in the next few frames to the viewer and the father had to leave his daughter back. Father never returns and the daughter’s longing grows with the passage of time. Time flies by and is poetically revealed through the changing scenery of the same landscape. The land wears new dresses as the seasons change.
She relentlessly waits for her father hoping his return; eyes lingered in the horizon, standing alone on the shore every day. Everything around her changes except her persistent visits. From a kid, to blossoming teens to being a wife and mother, she climbs up in her ladder of life. She habitually pauses a while whenever she happens to cross the spot where her dad departed. Even after tasting motherhood, the daughter in her keeps longing for father’s love.
She enters into the autumn of her life’s season, life clinging like a leaf on a twig ready to whither any time. Her rambunctious youth is a distant memory now and she has lost all her strength. Nothing lingers in her body except life and the longing. She drives her bicycle to the usual spot. Her attempts to make her bike steady against the gusting wind goes in vain. She abandons it and sets into the water which now is nothing more than a field of grasses, water all dried up. She swims through the grasses and finds an orphaned boat, like the one in which her father left. The daughter, now a granny, folds herself up inside the boat, as if see tries to get into her father’s womb (!) She wakes up later, sites her father at a distance, runs for him. Her wheel of life rotates backwards as she approaches him closer. She cuddles him up and they reunite, after life.
The final shots of the film are poetic and touching. It plays the perfect chords of the human emotions. The elder morphing into a kid symbolizes the daughter living her past life through memories. The film incorporates the polarity of the phases of life in every stage the daughter crosses in her life. Following the visuals a little closer will make the viewer identify the passersby on the pathway, are polar opposite in their ages with that of the protagonist every time.
This film received wide appreciation on release and it won the Oscar in the Best Animated short film category in 2000. To date this is the most successful work of Michael. This Dutch born animator and writer (he has done many illustrations for books), now based in London, has so far done five Animation shorts and his feature length film is yet to come. Besides he has done many commercials for a variety of products.
Father and Daughter could be perceived in entirely another point of view than merely as the longing of a daughter for her father. This work might also be interpreted as the poignant tale of fathers who leave their families to foreign lands in pursuit of jobs that offer lucrative salaries. They dedicate their youth and entire life for family welfare. They work like animals in unknown lands and the fruit they earn is relished by the family back in their home country, whom such fathers may not see at all, for most of their lives. This film experience will evoke your love for your father and he might at least flash in your mind for a moment, at least.