Takahide Hori’s painstaking stop motion film has taken over a decade to get to this point and despite an at times wayward narrative, this is an awe-inspiring piece of work that should be celebrated as widely as possible. Junk Head is an unforgettable film that truly lets the visuals do the talking.
It has been centuries since human beings abandoned mortality and natural reproduction. Centuries since the delegated danger and drudgery to clones, only to see their subjugated creations revolt and exile themselves in the vast subterranean underworld. Now the humans above have begun to explore this lost world, embarking on exploratory missions as fraught and uncertain as any in the history of the species. As a result, the creatures which were once docile fabricated servants have become a vast array of absurd and terrifying monstrosities. But humans too have changed, altered almost unrecognisably – and the changes haven’t come to a halt yet.
Gorgeous to look at in a gnarly grunge kind of way. The level of detail in each frame of Junk Head is astounding. You can’t help but admire the work that has gone into making this film. With a narrative that likes to play it loose, you never overly have to worry about losing track of the story as you gaze at the work presented. This is a film rife for rewatches so that you can scour the screen for things you may have missed previously.
With that all said, though Junk Head isn’t a perfect film, that narrative is as unwieldy as they come. We know this isn’t going to be a crisp film. We wouldn’t want it to be. The charm of Junk Head is in seeing its flaws like the world that Hori has created. It is a brilliant piece of work and something so unique as this needs to be celebrated despite its faults as this is stop motion at its very best.
You see this effort on the screen, often as said, to the detriment of a fixed narrative. Hori immerses himself in getting the world building right, that you feel he has slightly forgotten to push on with the story causing several scenes to just appear as one continuous chase instead of developing the story. Yet even if he did get caught up in the world that he has built, it should be applauded for being as unique as it is. Whether it is by the smallest of details about what a character is doing or using his camera to guide us through the scene, everything is memorable. At this point, it would almost be a travesty if this world is not expanded on. Hori has created a world that needs to be a universe with films upon films living within it. One can dream that this becomes a reality.
When it is said that Junk Head was practically a one-person show with Takahide Hori. It truly is meant, for over a decade, he has found himself take on the roles of director, lead animator, editor, cinematographer, composer, writer and voice actor for the majority of the roles. Hori has committed so much time and effort to this that you can only be amazed by the result. Usually, when someone toils away at a project for such a long time, the chances of that project becoming an unmitigated disaster rise immeasurably. But, somehow, despite the lack of a true direction with the story, Hori can keep his film together by staying true to the themes of humanity and identity. It is practically a miracle that this film has reached this point. Not all we need is for as many people as possible to see it.
If this film does one thing, it reminds you that there are different avenues to stop motion animation. We should never lose stop motion as a means of cinema. Imagine a world where Junk Head couldn’t get made this way, and it becomes a sadder place to live. There has been a deliberate effort to keep what happens in the film spoiler-free as possible as it is a film that needs to be seen rather than described. So watch it as soon as it becomes available to you; it is an utter triumph of a movie.
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