27 Feb 23
An explorer plumbs the depths of a distant-future dystopia in Junk Head, a stop-motion animation project once hailed by Guillermo del Toro as "a one-man band work of deranged brilliance".
Following several years of painstaking production (meaning about 140,000 stop-motion shots), this odd sci-fi odyssey marks the debut of Takahide Hori, a film fan-turned-filmmaker whose vision is distinctive and strange.
Overflowing with bizarre ideas (it's set in a world where humans have longevity but have lost their fertility) and grotesque creatures, the film was a surprise word-of-mouth hit in Japan and has now arrived here...
What inspired you to turn your hand to filmmaking?
After the age of 40, I decided thatI wanted to make a film. I had no knowledge about films at all, I just enjoyed watching them. Up until then, I didn't think it was possible to make a film by yourself. But then I had this thought that if it was stop-motion maybe I could, since I had experience of sculpture and making marionettes.
Did you have a sense of the kind of film you wanted to make?
I wanted to make a sci-fi but I also wanted it to be a film where people would love the story and love the characters. The idea was influenced by films like Alien and Hellraiser, and also, Tsutomu Nihei's manga, BLAME!. Despite those inspirations, what's important is to always strive to create something that's new and different.
Junk Head has humour and drama and horror in it as well. How did you land on that mix of tones?
I like sci-fi as a genre, but I felt that there weren't many sci-fi movies that were interesting as a drama. So I wanted it to be a film where people would love the story and the characters. And then there's the Soviet Union film Kin-dza-dza!. I saw that in my teens, and back then there wasn't much sci-fi that had humour in it. It had a surreal kind of humour that I really liked.
Were you a fan of stop-motion animation?
To be honest, I wasn't really interested in stop-motion! Most stop-motion films sell themselves on the basis of being and looking like stop-motion but I wanted it as much as possible to look like live-action.
What advice would you give to wannabe animators?
I just kept going, which is something anyone could do. You're going to be scared of making mistakes but you keep getting back up and trying again. You just have to believe in yourself. It's quite simple, really. Michael Leader
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