Thursday, March 01, 2007

The Periwig-Maker

Directed by Steffen Schäeffler and narrated by Kenneth Branagh, this 2001 Oscar-winning short (beating Copy Shop) as well as winning 15 other awards, is the story about a man who seals himself off in medieval plague-infested London to escape danger of infection. When an ill little girl seeks his help, his life is turned upside down.

The 15-minute film was created over a six-year period at Schäeffler's Berlin studio, Ideal Standard Film, which the director founded in 1994, with his sister and producer Annette Schäeffler. Together, they adapted the story from Daniel Defoe's "A Journal of the Plague Year."

At first, the ending really threw me. Here's what Schäeffler had to say:

"Besides its story about the plague and how every epidemic changes people's behavior, The Periwig-Maker asks some philosophical questions. It deals with the problem of responsibility for other people and for yourself: can you do wrong, when you do nothing... a very German question indeed. It also represents two different ways of living by the little girl and the wig maker: you can risk your life and live before you die, or you can prevent yourself from risking anything and live the life of a dead person. Keeping that in mind, the film has a positive twist at the end."


Mim said...

That was really lovely. It's a good example of the inner and outer journey of the Hero and how they can contradict each other.

His goal was to save himself, but discovered that saving his physical body was not the same as saving his soul.

Mystery Man said...

That's a great point, Miriam.

I had started to view it as a searching on his part to understand why this hopeless situation is happening to London, and in the end, when even he is close to succumbing to this horrible plague, he finds his answers, at least, the best answers to satisfy his question of what good could come of this? But his solution also condemned his own behavior of isolation.

I've seen it about 4 times now. It's a sleeper of a short film. The more you think about it, the more you see it, the better it gets.

Carl S said...

That was a great, moody short. As I was watching, I kept imaging the little girl as representing his true desires while his fear kept him locked up. In the end, he overcomes his fears and embodies the little girl, even visually, with the wig.

A real beauty.

Mystery Man said...

That's a spot on, Carl.

A beautiful point.