Voyeuristic Psychic Vampirism

Dalibor Baric Hosts Retrospective of Experimental Animated Short Films

Graphic Flora Hammond

The works of Croatian filmmaker Dalibor Baric cannot be easily ascribed a genre.

Avant-garde, futuristic and experimental come to mind, but after watching a few of his short films, one would more readily believe that they belong in a bizarre category all their own.

This year’s Film POP is embracing the supernatural and out-of-this-world, and Baric will be putting on a retrospective series of his short films that fit this bill in an exhibition titled Ghost Porn in Ectoplasm!, which is also the name of one of the films.

The first impression one has of a Baric film is of submersion in a dream—watching the short films is often a phantasmic and otherworldly experience. About 90 per cent of his films are created during one-night sessions, sometimes in as little as six to 10 hours.

This technique is used to preserve the same mood or state of mind during the entirety of production, so that the ambience doesn’t vary. His films rarely surpass eight minutes, and their brevity serves only to heighten their intensity.

Baric animates the films using a Wacom tablet, cutting and rotoscoping whole sequences of film, and then animating the frames to achieve the desired collage characteristic of his style.

Baric says he uses vintage images in his films to illustrate “the relation between present and past, not quite nostalgic but sinister and haunting, as buried layers of unresolved affairs, spectres of memories.”

The Good Word

Although there are rarely spoken words in his films, there’s often text that goes along with the action, with more artistic merit than a mere homage to silent film.

“When I put text between two scenes, I’d like to think of it as a micro-fiction, conceptual poetry,” Baric wrote to The Link by email.

This is one of the elements that give his films such a beautiful, intangible quality—a mélange of many different kinds of art converge in what feels like an ethereal, metaphorical parable. After viewing, one has the impression of having learned something important, but it’s often difficult to say what.

“It’s subversive and provocative to have words on-screen instead of images; to give the viewer a suggestion of a mental image instead of showing an actual image,” wrote Baric.

“But the word itself is a kind of image. The written word was the world’s first camera, it censors what it describes.”

This philosophical point of view echoes through films like The Spectres of Veronika.

“Veronika is a composite character, based on various horror movie heroines and conventions, all of them enclosed inside this spectral ideological structure,” said Baric. “She is haunted by all her incarnations—and stereotypes—and as the film progresses she disappears, collapsing into all these images and fragments.”

Let’s Get Psychedelic

Baric is not only original in his style of animation, but in challenging the concept of plots altogether. The psychedelic atmosphere of his films is inspired by music, and consequently music serves as the backbone of his rather experimental creative process.

“The technical level of the work keeps my rational mind occupied, so the intuitive or subconscious part can freely flow, undisturbed,” he said. “I never did work by the script or the shooting board. Instead, I create a soundtrack as a kind of emotional, atmospheric guideline through the process of the creation of the movie.

“For me, psychedelia, as surrealism, is a way of creating worlds within worlds,” he continued. “It’s about imagination and creativity and a sense of freedom, and I’m not talking about drugs.

“Some might call it escapism, but it’s an essential human need. People still have the right to their mythical consciousness, even in the ‘futureworld’ of the 21st century.”

Before finding his current style, Baric focused on post-war avant-garde and post-structuralist films, and American animator Lewis Klahr piqued his interest in experimental film. Until now, Baric has produced exclusively animated films, but he’s preparing for a new project that will be a short film with live actors. He describes the movie as having “a similar atmosphere and preoccupations of previous films.”

Baric fondly recounted his beginnings in film.

“My first festival breakthrough was with Pain So Light at 25FPS [film festival] in Zagreb, and the reception and the response was so great, it surprised me,” he said. “Prior to that, […] I made an opening title animation for the Motovun Film Festival and Ken Russell was there, and after receiving an honorary award, he stepped up and said to the audience that he wanted to give his award to the author of that animated title because he was so impressed by it. [It] was such a dreamlike moment and one of the best awards of my life.”

Ghost Porn in Ectoplasm!: A Dalibor Baric Retrospective // Sept. 28 // POP Quarters Film Box (3450 St. Urbain St.) // 6:30 p.m. // $8