An Ostrich Told Me the World Is Fake and I Think I Believe It (2022)
Director: Lachlan Pendragon
Screenwriter: Lachlan Pendragon
Starring: Lachlan Pendragon, John Cavanagh, Michael Richard, Jamie Trotter
What a breath of fresh air this 11-minute short film is. What a joyful expression of artistry. An Ostrich Told Me the World Is Fake and I Think I Believe It is 2023’s only stop motion nominee in the Animated Short category at the Oscars, and it tells of a disgruntled office employee suddenly realising that he’s a creation for a stop motion film. It’s form-shaping work, which you could say is appropriate for a stop motion production.
The opening shot of An Ostrich Told Me the World Is Fake and I Think I Believe It is of a camera shooting the stop motion scenes, human hands playing at super speed in the background as we watch the stop motion in “cinema time”, real time, via the monitor. As the characters converse, go about their day, look out the window, we see hands just out of focus altering the characters for each frame. This is, of course, an interesting position to put us in, a fourth wall break in one of cinema’s most obviously constructed forms; why disguise the creation of the film itself in a medium that so purposefully appears constructed? It’s self-aware, it’s playful, and it illustrates actor, screenwriter, director, animator Lachlan Pendragon’s knowledge of his form and his subject.
The office scenes fronted by Pendragon himself as Neil, an employee on the brink of being fired due to bad performance, are slow, the dialogue almost monotone as if taken from the play book of fellow Oceanian Taika Waititi, the construct of a disgruntled employee searching for meaning in life being a self-aware take from Fight Club and The Matrix. The latter Matrix is perhaps the best bed fellow for this film, for after a short period in which Neil is confronted by dysfunctional green screen, then notices his seated co-worker doesn’t have a keyboard… or legs, we are thrust down the rabbit hole, Neil becoming a self-aware puppet, the animator’s hand like an evil force attempting to restrain his now sentient mind. It’s Neo unhooking from the Matrix, Alice falling down the rabbit hole, and in the case of this film it’s a stop motion creation falling down a hole in the set and into a pit of spare parts… each a replica part of his own face. It’s a fascinating idea illuminated by intelligence and a sense of humour, such a unique expression of creativity that it’s impossible not to sit wide-eyed and smiling.
Films like An Ostrich Told Me the World Is Fake and I Think I Believe It are proof that ideas, that creativity, can still thrive even far away from the tried and tested formulas, the “ordinary” way of things. Creator Lachlan Pendragon is a 27-year-old film student from Brisbane, Australia. He had an exceptionally creative idea, he put it to screen, and he made it to the Oscars. What a story, and what a deserved achievement to cap it all off.
The movie industry can at times feel at odds with its own creators and exploitative of its own viewers, but films like this feel different. Cinema of the type that is An Ostrich Told Me the World Is Fake and I Think I Believe It can restore balance, even restore faith. This great medium through which human history is told, politics and emotion unravelled and remoulded, can still cause the purest elation, celebrate big ideas from relatively unknown creators, change and evolve and push boundaries, just as it always has. Lachlan Pendragon’s film won’t make $2billion or earn a merchandising deal, but it will put a smile on your face, it will make you think about the form of cinema and the ways in which its constructs can be reshaped like little stop motion figures. For that reason, it’s enchanting, it’s wonderful, it’s unmissable.