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The Magical Power of Body

Review of the movie “Caged Animals”

Dance is a performative art that has various descriptions and applications, and can be performed alone or in a group. Dance can be informal, part of a ritual, or even a professional performance. This art form has various types and each human society creates its own specific dances. Like other performing arts, some people dance to express their emotions and feelings or to alleviate suffering. Dance can also be used to tell a story. In some communities, dance is accompanied by rhythm or even musical performance. Although it is sometimes performed as a sport, many people follow this art form as a serious form of expression. Those who seek to learn dance attend specialized schools for this art, but it takes years of practice and exercise to become a skilled dancer. Designing dances, whether in groups or individually, is often a difficult and complicated work that requires repetition and detailed examination. Dances can be meticulously planned with precise details or done freely.

In “Caged Animals”, we are faced with a complex form of this art: in this work, dance becomes a kind of ceremony and ritual. Faces covered with masks, bodies adorned with patterns, branches and animal skulls, body-to-body struggles that are presented in the form of dance, and also a diversity of backgrounds. These dances are performed in different backgrounds. In other words, there is no temporal continuity in this work. We know that we are dealing with images from different times that interrupt each other, and the dancers present their performance movements in the foreground and often face with the camera. In such a way that if we mute the film sound and only see the images, we realize that we are not facing a linear narrative. Rather, we witness different moments of characters who each introduce themselves to us. A complete visual experience that accompanies the audience without having to focus too much on any of its aspects (whether images, people, or even dance itself). The film has a balanced combination of all these elements, and as it progresses, we realize that the importance of performance movements, character portrayal, cinematography, and music for filmmakers is equal and they (Eddie Jelinet and Thy Tran) intended to use all these aspects to create a special film. Collaboratively making a movie is generally difficult, yet we see that “Caged Animals” is a consistent and cohesive work.

Directed by Eddie Jelinet, Thy Tran

Dance is an international language and, as it involves physical performance, it requires no additional explanation for the general public to enjoy. In “Caged Animals”, we connect with the film solely through the characters and their movements. One practical and important point when encountering experimental and artistic works like this is that there is no certainty and we cannot expect the work to clearly convey its meanings. Many artworks present their intended meanings so blatantly that there is no room for doubt or confusion for the audience. However, works that want to leave the interpretation to the audience usually avoid presenting clear meanings. In “Caged Animals”, the filmmakers try to approach a cohesive whole by focusing on small and brief moments that quickly connect to other moments. We constantly encounter creative ideas that appear and disappear quickly. The combination of these ideas creates a fresh whole, made up of movements of body and face, masks and patterns.

The selection of music is intelligent. We see a piece that constantly changes moods and emotions, shedding its skin with each change and bringing new life to the work. We should note that this rhythmic music, full of old and recognizable sounds, invites us to see these moments in a different way, especially in the context of indigenous and tribal but modern music. The moments that the filmmakers have captured are very interesting in their own way; cuts of anger and loneliness, shouting and calmness, fear and struggle. Moments that seem to describe the characters we see. Throughout the work, the interaction between the characters is not clear, an issue that was not intended by the filmmakers from the beginning, but gradually we realize that the movie is an allegory about parts of human behavior and mentality that have not changed over time. It seems that these people we see in front of the camera who are supposed to be symbols of ancient humans were doing the same things modern humans do today. This movement between past and present is a natural result of the structure of the movies, which has been filmed in a studio and has a modern and composite music. That is, by taking these characters out of their natural context and bringing them to the studio, the filmmakers try to link the characters of the ancient world with the behavior of modern characters, emphasizing the artificiality of situations through masks, colors, etc.

“Caged Animals” is an experimental and fascinating film that, due to its short duration, can be watched again and again, focusing on different aspects; such as the way the work is edited and its relationship with the type of music used. Also, the characteristics of working in a studio environment and the use of music instead of dialogue. It shows how a visual work can be created without dialogue or subtitles to convey its message.


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