The Cameraman’s Revenge by Wladyslaw Starewicz

Published: 2021-07-16 23:05:06
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In this essay I will be talking about The Cameraman’s Revenge by Ladislas Starevich, which is a widely known and very notable stop motion animation that was something very new and very impressive for its time. I chose this piece for this essay as I admire the animator’s history and because I consider this animation to be very impressive. It stood out to me when I first encountered it and it has become a reference for me and my studies of animation. In this paper I will go through some of Starevich’s past and the many aspects of his famous animation that has paved a path of inspiration for other animators.
Originally born in Moscow, Russia, in 1882 to parents who were of Polish and Lithuanian decent, Ladislas Starevich began to grow to become an animator that has inspired many others that came after him. Although he was born in Moscow, he had later moved to Lithuania (which at the time was still part of the Russian empire). He began working as a director in the Natural History Museum in 1910 as one of his passions (aside from graphic design) was entomology, the study of insects. During his time here, he discovered his budding interest in animation, particularly stop motion, and this is where he began to experiment with using insects as puppets. The following year, he returned to his birthplace where he created many creative animations such as ‘The Beautiful Leukanida’ (1912) and ‘The Night Before Christmas’ (1913) which was based off Nikolai Gogol’s book of the same title. When the civil war struck, he fled Russia and travelled to a few cities before he settled down in political exile in a community of Russian immigrants in Paris.
‘The Cameraman’s Revenge’ is a creative 13 minute long stop motion animated film that involves a story that surrounds the topic of extramarital affairs and adultery, which at the time was not a heavily discussed topic in the public eye . Although it features such adult topics, it is considered a comedic film due to the use of classic cartoon style fight scenes and exaggerations of the characters actions for a comedic touch in the piece. The Cameraman’s Revenge is one of Starevich’s earliest works that survived the test of time and is considered possibly one of his most famous works to this day, or at least the most notable.
To summarise the story as best I can, the animation follows a pairing of beetles (Mr. and Mrs. Beetle) who have become bored of their partnership and seek extramarital company from outside sources. Mr Beetle stumbles upon a lover at a popular burlesque parlour (she is a dragonfly who is a popular dancer at the parlour and has a very jealous ex-boyfriend). This ex-boyfriend of hers is Mr. Grasshopper who decides he wants revenge on the budding lovers. The Grasshopper stalks his girlfriend and her new companion to the hotel that they are staying in, and here he films their escapade through the keyhole of their hotel room. Mr Beetle spots this and tries to catch him before he can make an escape but the Grasshopper luckily gets away. Meanwhile, Mrs. Beetle is having an escapade of her own at home with an artist, but when Mr. Beetle gets home he catches them in the act, kicking out the artist and eventually forgiving his wife but does not reveal what he did earlier. Later they go to a film screening together and it just so happens that the film that is being screened is Mr. Beetle’s affair up on the big screen for all to see.
This animation could possibly be seen as highly controversial and offensive in todays society but during Starevich’s time this was a rather comedic animation that in essence jokes about the idea of double standards, adultery and voyeurism . Despite the adult topics, the animation isn’t just known for the story, but it also is a very prominent example of early stop motion animation, and a very unique and creative example of it too.
The ‘animated’ insects have rather fluid and human-like movements, thanks to Starevich’s careful observation of how bugs move and interact as well as comparing it to how we as humans move. Because of this he crafted a detailed animation that has quite an interesting anthropomorphic style of movement and character expression and interaction. Because the film was a ‘silent’ film, his portrayal of the story relied heavily on the insects’ movements and interactions and he delivered exactly what was needed to make the animation successful. He essentially created a human story that was simple to understand without spoken word while still keeping some qualities and natural movements of the insects that he used which greatly helped with the comedic effect of the animation.
Starevich also used colour and music to help portray the story but used just enough of it to not take away from the movements of the animation too much. We all know that colours have somewhat of a psychological effect when watching a film or animation as it is used to help portray emotions and atmosphere within certain scenes (for example blue is associated with sadness and is often the primary tint or colour in a sad scene). He used certain colours over key scenes to help viewers understand the emotions of the scenes and connect it with the characters actions and feelings. An example of this would be the scene in which Mr. Grasshopper is filming, the primary colour that is seen during this part is red, some argue the meaning of this colour at this scene but I believe it sits between anger and lust, and that Starevich chose it so that viewers can choose who to sympathise with, Grasshopper or Mr. Beetle. Alongside the colours in various scenes, he also used music to further immerse people into the story of this animation. Although it is very basic, instrumental pieces, it really draws one’s attention to the atmosphere of each scene, further helping the depiction of the story.
Starevich was not the first stop motion animator in his time but considering his many works he certainly was one of the most creative. Animators to this day consider him an inspiration for their works. His most famous animation ‘The Cameraman’s Revenge’ is widely known and admired animation due to its creativity in content and production methods, the use of anthropomorphised insects, music and colour and striking storyline. Overall I really enjoy this film due to how different it was to any others in his time, and I feel like it is a wonderful inspiration for my own studies in animation and stop-motion.

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