MANOMAN is a short film that viewers should watch more than once in order to grasp its smart, cinematic spectacle. Due to the film’s surrealist humour, the viewer can easily overlook director Simon Cartwright’s poetic exploration of masculinity on first viewing.
As the viewer witnesses Glen’s journey from an overly self-conscious and shy person to an extension of the mini Manoman that he releases, it becomes clear that Wright’s humour is merely a disguise for the resonant themes at the stop-motion animation’s heart. These themes include masculinity, destruction, and, perhaps most importantly, a search for the self.
Throughout the animation’s opening, Cartwright cuts between the visible nervousness of Glen and a ball-like rock that inhabits his interior. It’s clear the director is playing with themes of suppression, with Glen unable to confront who he is on the inside. What’s more, each puppet bears some resemblance to the story’s protagonist; mirror images constantly confront Glen with what he thinks he should be.
It’s only when Glen vomits the eponymous Manoman, a tiny, prehistoric version of himself, that the protagonist feels ready to take action. Faced with the most extreme version of who he wants to be, one has to question whether Glen has any choice in his actions or if he is, both literally and figuratively, a puppet. In fact, Cartwright’s choice to show the puppets’ motion control sticks acts as a visual metaphor for this theme of control.
Composer Terence Dunn must be commended for his energetic score. Expertly shifting between strings, percussion, and keys, Dun’s score tracks and mirrors Glen’s emotional movements. Likewise, production designer Sara Taddei builds a realistic and stale world that works hand-in-hand with cinematographer Steven Cameron Ferguson’s ability to show emotion through lighting and colour.
By the film’s darkly hilarious end, Cartwright leaves viewers questioning the root of masculinity through the now “extinct” protagonist and the caveman that has taken his place. Is Manoman a result of Glen’s repression, or was the small symbol of masculinity an evil figure that grew inside of him?
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DIRECTOR: Simon Cartwright
PRODUCER: Kamilla Kristiane Hodøl
WRITER: Simon Cartwright
CINEMATOGRAPHY: Steven Cameron Ferguson
PRODUCTION DESIGNER: Sara Taddei
EDITOR: Paco Sweetman
COMPOSER: Terence Dunn
SYNOPSIS: In this tale of masculinity and destruction, Glen, a man out of touch with his masculinity, attends a primal scream therapy session in order to correct his insecurity. During the session, Glen discovers something new, and very small, that has been inside of him all along.