Neighbours (1952 film)
Neighbours (French title: Voisins) is a 1952 anti-war film by Scottish Canadian filmmaker Norman McLaren. Produced at the National Film Board of Canada in Montreal, the film uses pixilation, an animation technique using live actors as stop motion objects. McLaren created the soundtrack of the film by scratching the edge of the film, creating various blobs, lines, and triangles which the projector read as sound.
|Directed by||Norman McLaren|
|Produced by||Norman McLaren|
|Written by||Norman McLaren|
|Music by||Norman McLaren|
|Distributed by||National Film Board of Canada|
Two men, Jean-Paul Ladouceur and Grant Munro (representing French Canada and English Canada), live peacefully in adjacent cardboard houses. When a single, small flower (possibly a psychoactive flower) blooms between their houses, they fight each other to the death over ownership of that flower.
The moral of the film is, simply, Love your neighbour. The moral is also shown in other languages, including (in order of appearance):
- Japanese: 同胞に親切なれ (Dōhō ni shinsetsu nare)
- Chinese: 親善鄰居 (Qīnshàn línjū)
- Hindi: आपके पड़ोसी से प्रेम पूर्वक व्यवहार कीजिए (Aapke parosii ke prem porvak vyavahaar kiijie)
- Urdu: اپنے ہمساءے دوستانی برتاؤ کرؤ (Aapne hamsaae dostaani bartaao karo)
- Arabic: اَحِب قَرِيبَك (Ahib qaribak)
- Hebrew: וְאָהַבְתָּ לְרֵעֲךָ (V'ahavta l'reacha)
- Russian: Любите ближнего своего; Lyubite blizhnego svoyego
- Esperanto: Amu vian najbaron
- Norwegian: Elsk din nabo
- Spanish: Ama a tu prójimo
- German: Liebe deinen Nächsten
- Italian: Amate il prossimo
- French: Aimez votre prochain
Neighbours has been described as "one of the most controversial films the NFB ever made". The eight-minute film was politically motivated:
"I was inspired to make Neighbours by a stay of almost a year in the People's Republic of China. Although I only saw the beginnings of Mao's revolution, my faith in human nature was reinvigorated by it. Then I came back to Quebec and the Korean War began. (...) I decided to make a really strong film about anti-militarism and against war." — Norman McLaren 
The version of Neighbours that ultimately won an Oscar was not the version McLaren had originally created. In order to make the film palatable for American and European audiences, McLaren was required to remove a scene in which the two men, fighting over the flower, murdered the other's wife and children.
During the Vietnam War, public opinion changed, and McLaren was asked to reinstate the sequence. The original negative of that scene had been destroyed, so the scene was salvaged from a positive print of lower quality.
NFB founder John Grierson, who had invited McLaren to the NFB to form its first animation unit, would ultimately disparage Neighbours and McLaren's attempt at political cinema:
"I wouldn't trust Norman around the corner as a political thinker. I wouldn't trust Norman around the corner as a philosophic thinker. That's not what Norman is for. Norman is for Hen Hop. Hen Hop. That's wonderful. And so many other things. That's his basic gift. He's got joy in his movement. He's got loveliness in his movement. He's got fancy in his changes. That's enough."
The term 'pixilation' was created by Grant Munro to describe stop-motion animation of humans in his work with McLaren on Two Bagatelles, a pair of short pixilation films made prior to Neighbours. Some mistake the film as live-action with stop-motion effects but all movement by the actors in Neighbors is in fact pixilation. During one brief sequence, the two actors appear to levitate, an effect achieved by having the actors repeatedly jump upward and photographing them at the top of their trajectories.
McLaren followed Neighbours with two other films using a similar combination of pixilation, live action, variable speed photography and string puppets. The first, A Chairy Tale (1957) was a collaboration with Claude Jutra and Ravi Shankar. The second, Opening Speech by Norman McLaren (1960) was made for the International Film Festival of Montreal, and starred McLaren himself.
Awards and honoursEdit
Neighbours is the winner of both a Canadian Film Award and an Oscar. For the latter, it was nominated twice in the 25th Academy Awards, for Short Subject (One-reel) and for Best Documentary (Short Subject). It was in the Documentary category that this short, stylized drama (with some comedic elements) won its Oscar. A 2005 press release issued by AMPAS states that Neighbours is "among a group of films that not only competed, but won Academy Awards in what were clearly inappropriate categories".
This film was designated as a "masterwork" by the Audio-Visual Preservation Trust of Canada, a charitable non-profit organization dedicated to promoting the preservation of Canada's audio-visual heritage.
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