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Recipe for Gruel

Life in a surreal and dystopian world, one meal at a time.

2013 | 5 - 10 | Animation | Black Comedy | Surreal | UK

What do you need to make gruel? A pot, water , a little oatmeal and a bible. So says the narrator of this original British animation, in which we follow the difficult tribulations of an old woman (and her pet hen) that is, in fact, cooking some gruel.

The recipe, however, serves as an excuse to portray the everyday life of a world on the edge of dystopia. The city in which the protagonist lives is so gray and bleak, that just to get drinking water have to get very far. There is a curfew, and closed-circuit cameras monitor every corner. It’s a ‘godforsaken’ place, as remarked by one of the solutions of the crossword that the old woman is doing, her only pastime and the  focal point of the entire short .

Recipe For Gruel is based on Frank Key’s short story of the same name, an English writer known for his nonsense style. The adaptation is very interesting, as the prose is recited by an omniscient narrator (voiced by Key himself) who orders the protagonist what to do and at the same time ‘directs’ the diegetic and extradiegetic elements of short (such as the musical inserts). The narrator is the true protagonist of the story, being threatening and terrifying, but also funny, ironic, at times overtly comical in its many digressions. The surreal style of the author is perfectly recreated in the short, and does not allow us to understand the source of this narrator. It seems to emerge from a radio, but it could also be a kind of big brother who observes and controls everything in this oppressive world.

Some scenes and certain traits of character design very reminiscent of the style of Tim Burton, and there’s a good reason for that: the director Sharon Smith aka Miss Hathorn has experience in animation 2d , and has collaborated with the director as a storyboard artist for Frankenweenie and Corpse Bride. There are still many original and clearly personal elements though, starting with the beautiful backdrops that create a unique atmosphere. This is Miss HatHorn’s first short, and was selected in many international festivals, such as Annecy and Raindance .

Flavia Ferrucci

Flavia Ferrucci

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