The Astronomer's Sun
Reviewed By: Andrew Robertson
A stop motion figure enters an observatory, its skeletal dome stuck into the heavens, panels missing from its frame indicating age, neglect, a clear sense of abandonment. Inside there is a mechanism, an orrery fantastical which gleams with mechanisms and markings uncanny. Through a flashback, the eyes of a clockwork teddy bear, we see the orrery engaged, a man inside, with a comet in the sky, the terrified face of a child.
That same child now adult, the same bear hidden in the same chest, the same comet in the sky. With character design that recalls the stylised yet hyper-real figures of Eastern European animation, the ridges and quirks of nature before the rounded edges of Aardman, this is a visually exciting film. Served well by David Aston's sound work, the machinery and the small quantity of voicework, and by Peter Wright's music, it's technically excellent.
Written and directed by Jessica Cope and Simon Cartwright, it conveys a lot simply, and strikingly concludes with an ending that is almost equally maudlin and joyful. With its focus on machines arcane, even magical, this piece is phantasmagorical, recalling perhaps His Dark Materials before Tik Tok of Oz. The trick to short animation is to do just enough, and as the planets and gears of the orrery combine to wondrous effect so too do the elements of The Astronomer's Sun.
Produced by David Bunting and Peter M. Kershaw, Duchy Parade Films Ltd