Rocks in My Pockets (2014)
Editor’s Notes: Rocks in My Pockets opens in limited release today, Friday September 5th.
Mental health is a topic which has been represented differently over the years often through the lens of the creators’ own experiences in dealing with them. What sets Signe Baumane’s work apart from the predecessors in the field is that it’s composed of an eccentric style which delivers ample dosage of dark humor regularly but also generates words and situations of immense depth when it really needs to.
…. delivers ample dosage of dark humor regularly but also generates words and situations of immense depth when it really needs to.
Functioning as a hybrid between an animated feature and a solid attempt at storytelling purely through narration, Rocks in My Pockets is a product that seems wholly personal but one which has relevance universally. Largely dealing with schizophrenia and the genetic inheritance that carries mental health issues through the different generations of the narrator’s family as she describes a vivid and colourful tale that takes the viewer back to early 20th century Latvia focusing on the life of those in her family who dealt with similar issues. The most immediate fact that hits you about the film is the wholly original and imaginative surreal art style which combines multiple art styles on the screen to provide a solid canvas for it to reflect on its themes. Using largely 2D hand-drawn pencil art along with pastel backgrounds and occasionally even actual 3D clay models to describe the alienation and disconnect between the sanctum of inner mind to the illegible chaos of the outside. The animation not just adds a great deal of meaning to the film along with occasional humour, but it’s also something unlike anything you’ve seen before coming off like a wholly unique offshoot from Maurice Sendak.
Rocks in My Pockets uses dark humor in plentiful particularly at the tragic situation of people trapped by their life situation or the vagaries of their mind. It also tiptoes around the topic of suicide idealization in a manner you’d not expect but somehow the progression from dark humor to deep meaning is never jarring and fully complements the content of the message the film puts forward. While it may disturb many that it liberally uses suicide in a light sense, the context of the film counters that as it is always about the narrator trying to understand their own problem through the lens of her relatives lives.
The film also doesn’t shy away from dealing out with hard truths – be it the immensely suffocating one of living day in and day out with a mind that is an entity of its own or the inability of the world at large to understand mental issues. The latter plays a big role in the stories of many of Signe’s ancestors who were living during an era when mental health issues were a taboo and institutionalization was the sole option. Each story plays out like a tragedy you’ve seen before and while you know how it’s going to end, it doesn’t make it any less difficult. The film may focus on schizophrenics specifically but it also has great relevance to anyone suffering from depression to other mental health issues with both the intensity of the narration and the art describing some of the situations of anxiety and alienation in vividly innovative manner.
It paints a surreal canvas exploring schizophrenia in a manner filled with generous amount of dark humor that feels like it more than characterizes a person’s experience with it.
The film is also narrated entirely by Signe Baumane throughout its length of 88 minutes and she does a brilliant job at it describing the emotion and different characters’ voices in a playful manner capturing the attention of the viewers’ minds. Despite a noticeable accent and the fact it may get tiring for some viewers to rely on a single mode of narration, Signe’s voice plays a key role as the film eventually turns its focus onto her own tale and the added depth and gravity of mental health issues faced by different people in her family dawn on her. She never goes for melodramatic or builds scenes onto a crescendo but instead narrates them with a kind of matter-of-factly honesty that you’d expect from a storyteller who’s narrating something personal.
Rocks in My Pockets is a brilliantly evocative film which entices mind with its vivid art and imagination but also floors you with how it presents the lives of people dealing with mental health issues, the response of the world to it and how it affects them internally. It paints a surreal canvas exploring schizophrenia in a manner filled with generous amount of dark humor that feels like it more than characterizes a person’s experience with it. In doing so, Signe Baumane achieves something beyond the apparent with her work – she not just successfully portrays a reflection of the generational inheritance of mental health issues but also comes out with a positive message in a beautiful scene where she acknowledges an individual’s importance despite the seemingly insignificant scale of our existence.
Rocks in My Pockets is a brilliantly evocative film which entices mind with its vivid art and imagination but also floors you with how it presents the lives of people dealing with mental health issues, the response of the world to it and how it affects them internally.