Contrafacta: Description

15 minutes 2000

“This mind-boggling animation… seems to sit entirely outside of contemporary culture.” Vancouver Underground Film Festival, 2000

“This painstakingly crafted medievalist tale utilizes a series of brilliantly coloured cut-outs to conjure a dreamland of floating royals and waltzing unicorns. Birth, death, plague and the farming of souls all rub shoulders in this episodic surrealist fable. In a dance of grace and punishment where miracles are commonplace, we follow the descent of a royal egg which hatches the changing shape of the world.” Mike Hoolboom, Images Festival, 2000

Contrafacta is the second collaborative collage animation by Toronto filmmakers Roberto Ariganello and Chris Gehman. Using images from medieval artworks, and quotations from the writings of medieval mystics and poets, Contrafacta creates a web of related images and events without a simple connective narrative. The world of Contrafacta is one in which the everyday exists side-by-side with the supernatural, in which magical events and transformations occur in every scene. The film takes its place in a tradition that stretches from Mélies through the Surrealists; the material is presented in a series of tableaus, each illuminating a particular corner of an irrational, imaginary world.

The term “contrafacta” is musicological. It refers to the common medieval music practice of using an existing melody, but substituting a new set of lyrics for the existing text. The filmmakers see this practice as roughly analogous to the way they have recontextualized the artworks used in the film.

“Every work here is characterized by a rare modesty (of means and/or of ego), but it would be wrong to equate this with a lack of ambition. To wit: Contrafacta. The horror of an incomprehensible world ruled by an unfathomable God is expressed through sublime cutout animation; medieval art moves to a creepy and funny soundtrack, inadvertently inventing a new genre: spiritual slapstick.” Daniel Cockburn, “Cinema Naivete,” 2006