Amazing things can happen when you combine quiet, haunting music with remarkably soulful marionnettes. This stunning film by Yuliya Tsukerman is set against the evocative and otherworldly music of Man, Woman, Friend, Computer. This is not actually a quartet, but rather the musical project (and astonishingly, the debut) of composer, lecturer and classical guitarist Thomas Echols, who has recorded and toured with Grammy-nominated DeVotchKa and Grammy-winning choral group Conspirare. What results from this curious union is a symbiotic match made in heaven.
Tsukerman sets her marionettes into scenes no larger than a tabletop that seem to be entire unfamiliar worlds that seem both intensely personal and alien. The expressiveness of the puppets draw the viewer immediately into the story. In “Exordium/Outgrown,” a spaceman deals with his own loss and isolation as he lovingly cares for an injured creature on an alien planet. She combines traditional Czech marionette techniques that are centuries old with materials of today plus found objects. She creates, in her words, “an analog reimagining of the space age that points to the the loneliness of the digital world, and to the new distances we create as we try to conquer the old.” The music is taken from the first and final tracks of the Man, Woman, Friend, Computer debut album, with a newly-composed interlude that connects the songs, musically and narratively, into a cohesive piece that beautifully complements the film. Music and visuals elicit feelings of sadness, alienation, loss, and oddly, tremendous compassion.
The film was handmade using “tabletop interstellar landscapes with marionettes made from paperclay, cast resin, ribbon, hot glue, latex, felt, and pieces of space blanket.”