It is rare that you get to see a film that can be considered a truly singular vision. While cinema is full of renowned auteurs, as a viewer we also understand that these are projects undertaken by hundreds of people. Not Junk Head. The ending credits are an eye-opener, with creator Takahide Hori credited under every possible position, starting from “Director” all the way to “Model Sculptor”. To call it a labour of love would be an understatement.
A stop motion dystopian future where mankind and clones co-exist, only for the latter to rebel and seek refuge deep underground, provides the framing for a tale that feels episodic in nature. His character and creature designs have an otherworldly quality to them. Hori’s world is believed to be thousands of years into the future, where technological and biological advancements have left humanity looking like shells of what we would call people, while the world below being is populated with all manner of freakish beings (or at least, freakish to our sensibilities).
The protagonist, affectionately referred to as both Junkers and God depending on the characters in question, is ostensibly on a mission to save the dying human race, yet over the course of the film his journey is taken off the beaten track and becomes more about exploring this unique world and its inhabitants created by Hori.
It has both positive and negative elements. Hori’s vision is full of humour, memorable characters and striking imagery, ensuring it’s a film that will stay with the viewer for some time. Yet its vignetted storytelling, in a film running at just under two hours, is emblematic of a production lacking focus. Junkers’ quest is almost entirely sidetracked for the middle hour of the film, and despite still being an enjoyable ride, it meanders around its desolate wasteland for far too long before deciding to reignite the narrative. The finale of the film is perhaps its most disappointing aspect, as clearly Junkers story is far from over.
Perhaps it is something to be expected from a one-man production, where the benefit of outside critical eyes during production may not have been present. Nonetheless, Hori’s filmmaking displays some remarkable flourishes; the motion of his characters is often paired with dramatic camera movements, something not commonly seen in stop motion animation, which creates additional layers of fluidity to his scenes. A sharp push in on a character’s expression conveys their nefarious intentions, while a quick pan magnifies the impact of a blow another character receives.
It is a film made with real passion, with elements worthy of strong praise. Hopefully as Hori continues Junkers’ story he can address the pacing issues.
For more on the Glasgow Film Festival 2018 and its programme click here.