Marta Pajek Concludes Impossible Figures Trilogy at NFB
A ticking clock. A cataclysmic bang. And then they just disappeared…
In one deft flourish Marta Pajek plunges us into the richly imagined universe of Impossible Figures and Other Stories I, an unsettling and strangely tender narrative of loss and renewal that concludes her Impossible Figures trilogy.
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The Polish-born Pajek is quickly earning a reputation as one of the most gifted animators of her generation, and the first two films in the trilogy, produced through the Warsaw-based Animoon, have been showered with accolades, winning grand prizes on the international festival circuit along with a coveted place in the 2018 Cannes competition.
For the third and final installment, her Polish producer Animoon has entered into an international co-production with the NFB Animation Studio, with Piotr Szczepanowicz and Grzegorz Wacławek producing for Animoon and Maral Mohammadian for the NFB.
“When we embarked on this journey we couldn’t have imagined how far it would take us, says Szczepanowicz. “This last film is very special, not only because it concludes all the themes explored in the trilogy, but also because it made our first collaboration with the NFB possible. With its deep understanding of Pajek’s subject matter and its incredibly creative approach to the artistic challenges of the project, the NFB makes a perfect partner. Films produced by the NFB make up the history of world animation— and it’s our greatest privilege to become a part of this history.”
A graduate of Krakow’s Academy of Fine Arts, Pajek studied with animation superstars like Jerzy Kucia and Priit Pärn, going on to startle and delight audiences with early work like After Apples (2004), Next Door (2005) and the award-winning Sleepincord (2011). With the Impossible Figures trilogy, her imagination was fired up by the notion of impossible constructs, figures that can be drawn according to established rules of perspective but not constructed in reality. Think MC Escher and his dizzying depictions of architecture or the Penrose triangle.
Maral Mohammadian saw the first film in the series at the Hiroshima International Animation Festival. “I was absolutely captivated. It sparked immediate lively debate – about gender politics, sexuality, femininity, liberation,” she says. “It was a such an accomplished film for an early career director. And the second film was equally striking, a surreal and minimalist evocation of a romantic relationship, so we’re thrilled to be working with her on this final installment.”
Pajek describes the final film as “a dystopian vision of the end of our civilization.” Having guided her female protagonist through disorienting domesticity and then into a dark psychosexual relationship, she now casts her out into the wider world. “The city itself becomes an impossible figure,” says Pajek, “an embodiment of society, or civilization if we chose a broader interpretation, that inevitably self-destructs.”
Manipulating hand-drawn animation within 3D environments, she conjures a disquieting universe replete with visual references to European history — classical Greek sculpture, Soviet architecture, Leni Riefenstahl’s Olympia — all rendered in sharply etched sensory detail. Rarely has fur appeared more luxuriant…or more menacing.
“Marta Pajek is a cinematic force,” says Michael Fukushima, executive producer of the Animation Studio, “and working with her on this extraordinary project has been exciting for everyone. As it turns out she was with us during our last months in our historic studio facilities, just before our big move to downtown Montreal. So there is kind serendipity with this film – a story about the end of a civilization, crafted as an real time era was coming to an end.”
The NFB has a long history of participating in cross-border collaboration, building on the internationalist impulse of the pioneering Norman McLaren, and Impossible Figures and Other Stories I is the NFB’s second coproduction with Poland, following Sexy Laundry (2015), a Canada/Poland/Germany coproduction with the NFB’s French Program Animation Studio, directed by Izabela Plucinska.
Impossible Figures and Other Stories I is co-produced by Poland’s Animoon Productions (Piotr Szczepanowicz and Grzegorz Wacławek, producers) and the NFB (Maral Mohammadian, producer; Michael Fukushima, executive producer). Canadian animators on the project are Eva Cvijanović, Parissa Mohit, Alex Boya and Brandon Blommaert, with Eloi Champagne as Technical Director.
It completes a trilogy that began with Impossible Figures and Other Stories II (2016) and Impossible Figures and Other Stories III (2018), which premiered in Cannes. Watch for a spring release.