Animating Poetry: The Work of Basia Goszczynska
By: Elise Hugus, July 12, 2012
Courtesy the artist - Basia Goszcynska hangs out with her puppets on the set of her stop-motion animated film, "Dziad i Baba," playing at the Woods Hole Film Festival on Monday, July 30.
Two soul mates fight their fears of death and loneliness in Basia Goszczynska's stop-motion animation, Dziad i Baba, screening at the Woods Hole Film Festival on Monday, July 30 at 5 PM.
Based on a Polish folk tale penned by poet Józef Ignacy Kraszewski, viewers are drawn into the diminutive utopian world of Dziad (Old Man) and Baba (Old Woman), whose passion for each other is doomed by the unavoidable fact of their mortality.
Running just under 9 minutes, the animation took Goszczynska four years of part-time work to complete. Her puppets and sets are made almost entirely of found objects: seed pods she picked up in Maui, a boar's skeleton and lobster carapace that made their way into the puppet skeletons, and natural materials gathered from the woods and beaches of Cape Cod.
“I try to be eco-friendly,” says Goszczynska, a Falmouth resident who works as a video editor at the Marine Biological Laboratory. “Except for where I have to use epoxy to hold things together, I compost my sets after I'm done with them.”
In addition to building the puppets, sets and camera setup, it required enormous amounts of patience to shoot each incremental movement at 12 frames per second. Even still, Goszczynska said she found it hard not to move the puppets, so she would add blinking eyelids or other gestures in each scene.
Goszczynska's painstaking attention to detail translates into a rich visual tapestry that rewards viewers in every scene. The Old Man and Old Woman move with a realistic elderly gait; the grass rustles in the wind while the Old Man plucks a harp. Set against a purple mountain backdrop, the viewer is drawn into their cozy little world, complete with little clay pots and a thatched roof hut.
Though Dziad i Baba is Goszczynska's second stop-motion film, it is her first time doing it completely digitally. Shot on a Canon 40D DSLR, she said the process involves less guesswork than it would on film, but still required shooting some scenes multiple times to get the background imagery just right. She would then correct each still in AfterEffects, before finally getting to the edit.
A Timeless Message
While "Dziad i Baba" is a poem cherished by older generations in Poland, Goszczynska said she had not heard of it until her mother read it to her four years ago.
“It rang true to me. It was an instantaneous decision to use it in a short-form animation,” she said.
After translating the poem herself, Goszczynska enlisted her sister Zofia to narrate and her parents to voice the characters of the old man and woman. She raised the funds for sound design and music by Ralf Yusuf Gawlick through an Indiegogo campaign.
Try it yourself!
Can't make it to Dziad i Baba? Basia Goszczynska's work will be featured before every WHFF screening as the welcoming trailer for the festival.
You can learn more about stop-motion and 3D animation in Goszczynska's workshop at the Woods Hole Film Festival.
Held on Sunday, July 29 at 1 PM in the Old Woods Hole Fire Station, the workshop is a hands-on, all-levels class on how to shoot and edit an animated film. The fee for the class is $25 and tickets can be purchased online.
Goszczynska, whose family moved from Poland to Canada when she was 3 years old, said she was also attracted to the universal theme of the poem, but also the slightly dark humor that Poles are known for.
“We don't have an easy history. There is that tradition of darker humor [in the film] but also the universal theme of love,” she said.
As for the underlying meaning, Goszczynska said she found a timeless message in Kraszewski's poem.
“We are just alone in this world. We should not hold back on love,” she said, adding another interpretation: “Never be sure of your bravery.”
Goszczynska's animation may find commercial appeal in her native country this year, due to a coincidental decision by the Polish Parliament to promote Kraszewski's work throughout 2012 in honor of the poet’s 200th birthday.
While the film has already been accepted at 14 festivals in the US, Goszczynska also plans to submit it to festivals and television stations in Poland. She is currently working on a new animated short, Zulo the Bowerbird.