Sed uz sliekšna pasacina: a very pretty and surreal animated film from Latvia

Mirdza Zivere, “Sed uz sliekšna pasacina” (1987)

Made for Latvian-language television in the Soviet Union in 1987, this very pretty and surreal animated short has some of the wistful melancholy of the famous Studio Ghibli films. The entire film is a music video clip that might have been made in an alternative universe where psychedelic rock and pop never faded away under the Doc Martens of punk and new wave, and commercial children’s cartoons wholly embraced spaced-out synthesiser sounds and looping rhythms. The style of psychedelic pop on display could have come from Japan: girly whispering passes for singing, and melodies in pure sparkling synth tones, clean production and an ambience that switches from the innocence born of new spring to slight wintry foreboding fuse in a memorable song of variable mood that exploits the full range of synthesiser sounds, atmosphere and melody.

The animation is colourful and the main child character is very cute in a way slightly reminiscent of Japanese cartoon character with shining eyes but less kitschy baby-like in appearance. Ocean waves look a little like what we’d expect to see of ocean waves in Japanese wood-block prints and animation so I’d say our Latvian film-makers had been paying much attention to developments in anime. There are many mind-boggling surrealist scenes in the film: shiny eyes with long lashes blink in the sky and shed globular tears; a beautiful fairy opens an oyster shell to reveal a world of blue shades in which a blue flower might be growing; animals and a potential little friend for the child sprout out of the ground. The fairy with the impossibly long blue-grey hair arrives on a horse accompanied by black birds covered in stars: one bird spreads itself over and into the ground and the stars become beautiful white lotus flowers out of which the child playfully emerges, having hid there secretly. The child is allowed a brief tour of the magic lands the fairy brings in her shells before she leaves him to visit other children.

The artwork is very detailed with plenty of distance perspective: a scene appears to show the camera moving as if flying over landscapes of undulating hills and sparse forests towards us. The ever-changing scenes are highly imaginative and there are so many gorgeous surprises that viewers need to see this film, short though it is, several times over to take it all in.

Perhaps this film really isn’t suitable for children: they may be tempted to try to recreate what they’ve seen by scoffing strange little white pills wherever and whenever they find them!

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