Nael / The Nail (dir. Heino Pars): inventive stop-motion animation short about human nature and revenge

Heino Pars, “Nael / The Nail” (1972)

Droll little animation short “Nael” consists of four stories that illustrate aspects of life in Soviet Estonia in the 1970s using stop-motion animation. First up is a story of two nails who fall in love and have a baby only for the bigger nail of the two to turn deadbeat runaway dad. The second story is of a young nail investigating a hammer who suffers the inevitable smack-down. Third up is a gangland fight that ends only when one nail is arrested by the police (represented as a magnet). The fourth story takes place in a circus in which the lion-tamer orders his kitty to perform various demeaning tricks such as jumping through a ring of fire. The lion reserves its best trick at the very end though which of course means a kat-astrophe for the lion tamer.

The animation is inventive with a minimalist style. All the action is silent so Pars must work at telling his stories and he succeeds . Particularly original is the way Pars gets his nails to conceive babies in the heat of lust, punch one another’s lights out and turn bow-ties into rings ablaze with fire. Viewers quickly acclimatise to the blank backgrounds in which the only stage props are windows are indicated only by matchsticks. Nothing moral or dark is illustrated here apart from perhaps the second story which might be a “curiosity killed the cat” morality story or a snide poke at the Soviet system. Viewers will warm to the fourth story which, although predictable, has a very cheeky sense of humour.

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