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Edinburgh Fringe 2013

Paper Cinema’s Odyssey

Paper Cinema

Genre: Film

Venue: Summerhall


Low Down

Paper Cinema construct a real time film of Homer’s Odyssey in front of our eyes using a combination of puppetry, animation and live music. Though it’s hard to draw your eyes away from the seductive delights on the screen, the intricate process of making the film is on full display alongside the film.


In today’s increasingly technological age, Paper Cinema’s Odyssey feels like a throwback to another age, a silent film with a live accompaniment. But look again, and that feels like a huge trick played on us in full view, because as Paper Cinema conjure up their beautiful worlds in miniature the complexity of their process is there for all to see.

Using a mix of sketching, storytelling, and puppetwork and combining it with a live band on stage, Paper Cinema create a full length feature film of Homer’s the Odyssey before our eyes. It’s like seeing cinema inside out. In front of your eyes a whole new world is created.

The company sit in front of the screen. Two puppeteers pass black and white drawings in front of a projector, which are then projected onto a screen. To the right, a band plays a specially composed soundtrack on a variety of instruments. So that explains it, simple really. Except that it’s not – anything but. Everything happens in real time and the level of skill, dexterity and precision needed from the puppeteers and in the show’s conception is just jaw dropping.

Rather than being distracting having all the elements in front of us adds to the experience, giving us a taste of the act of creation and deconstructing it before us.

The film itself is entrancing. The cut outs, drawn in black and white, like linocuts or graphic novel illustrations, fill the screen in 3D. Effects are lovingly executed by the two puppeteers, Imogen Charleson and Nicholas Rawling, whose ordering and precision are immaculate. They achieve 3D effects by combinations of the cut-outs, and small special effects through simple techniques such as a movement of the hand across the projector or the movement of the cut-out.

There are humorous moments that mostly depend on anachronisms –  Odysseus’s son setting off on a bike, attaching a missing person’s poster to a tree. These moments out of time link the enduring story of the Odyssey to the present with its eternal themes of absence and journeys.

The live band is fantastic and perfectly suited to the action on screen. It’s a three person band, mostly playing keyboards, violin and guitar but with occasional incursions to sound effects from odd objects.

For all its gliding beauty and awe-inspiring design and execution, Paper Cinema doesn’t quite lift off the screen. The pictures are beautiful, how it’s done verges on the unbelievable, but the clarity of the storytelling sometimes suffer and it never achieves the emotional impact that a truly epic Odyssey deserves. But, on the other hand, it is totally beautiful and utterly mesmerising.


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