“Neighbors”: Norman McLaren’s Philosophical Masterpiece

“Neighbors”: Norman McLaren’s Philosophical Masterpiece

(Credits: Far Out/YouTube Still)


When we consider the dizzying development of animation in the 20th century, the unforgettable films of Norman McLaren inevitably become an integral part of the rapid development of this field. From abstract art to sound design, McLaren’s work has proven to be an important source of inspiration for many of the artists who have followed in his footsteps. Although he was a prolific artist, very few of his works can match the groundbreaking achievements of his 1952 gem. Neighbours.

Of course, during his illustrious career, McLaren made some notable films, especially important works such as points. However, Neighbours went beyond animation, managing to become an important part of the socio-political discourse. The relatively simple short revolves around two neighbors who get into a deadly conflict. Although Neighbours the ideological message is universal, it was created within a certain political framework.

Described as a controversial work, Neighbours raised many important questions. McLaren once said (via IndieWire): “I was inspired to make Neighbours almost a year in the People’s Republic of China. Although I only saw the beginning of Mao’s revolution, it strengthened my faith in human nature. Then I went back to Quebec and the Korean War started… I decided to make a really strong film about anti-militarism and war.”

In the film, the two neighbors are supposed to represent French Canada and English Canada, but the political context changes depending on the viewers’ personal positions. In fact, American audiences perceived the film as a scathing commentary on the Vietnam War, and McLaren was effectively asked to censor some of the more violent imagery in the film. It was a diluted version of the short that ended up winning an Oscar.

conflict in Neighbours created by the appearance of a strange flower that has unique psychedelic effects. It is shown that before the appearance of the flower, two neighbors coexisted in illusory harmony, consuming conflicting information from harmful media. However, the two of them soon embark on a deadly journey to take possession of the flower, destroying everything beautiful in the process.

McLaren intrudes on the concept of private property by creating a timeless story in which two people use seemingly nonsensical explanations such as borders to create fabricated stories. This central idea will be further explored by Benedict Anderson in his seminal book. imaginary communities, which explores the mythology of the nation and nationalism. Although the topic requires serious academic input, McLaren brilliantly captures it all in his 7-minute featurette with silly pixelation techniques.

Watch the movie below.

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