A short essay for my Film Theory and Criticism Class
The 1975 short animated film “Hedgehog in the Fog” (Yozhik v tumane) by Yuri Norstein offers an amalgam of terror and pleasure using the phantasm of venturing into the unknown. This evocative work of imagination features the journey of a hedgehog one evening to see his bear cub friend. As he travels in the foggy forest, he encounters many scary things that eventually become transformative moments of wonder. This 11-minute Russian short is rich in symbolisms with the fog on the spotlight, as it exudes that sense of mystery of not knowing what’s beyond it. As the viewer follows the plight of the hedgehog, one becomes part of the character’s journey – from seeing the beautiful white horse to meeting strange creatures.
Allowing the viewer to experience life with child-like wonder, the cut-out feel of the film’s magical, surreal dream world promotes a haunting, profound metaphor for the routines and sense of curiosity one finds in a vast world – where the fear of the unknown becomes a concern. As the story comes to an end, a viewer’s reflection can lead to the contemplation that life is indeed finite – it has a beginning and an end. What one can do in between should take into consideration the adventures possible in this vast world. One can take risks and try to venture into the fog for a more fulfilled life despite the risks at stake. One can discover new things, know more, and encounter diverse elements, even if there is that natural tendency to fear the unknown.
In reading this classic’s cinematic text, one can readily recognize various signs based on cultural conventions and personal experiences. To quote French film theorist Christian Metz, “Pictorial meaning cannot be explained as a kind of linguistic meaning.” The meanings derived from reading the film works this way. Meanwhile, in terms of mounting the scenes, this film effectively sets up the storytelling details to ensure that its target audience understands its narrative flow. Moreover, the dramatic continuity of action and the investment and manipulation of emotions in the narrative are very much apparent that the viewer is able to follow the main character as if s/he is part of the journey.
Related Readings (Film Theory and Criticism):
Film Semiotics in the Earlier Lens of Christian Metz
Ideology, Reality, and the Apparatus Film Theory with Jean Louis Baudry
The Mythology of Roland Barthes: Studying the Semiological Nature of Myth
‘Tango’ Short Film Critique: Overlapping Routines as a Collective Ritual
‘The Red Balloon’ Short Film Critique: Relationship and Poetry Through a Child’s Gaze