"She Who Measures": Consume Forever! By Doris Senn

in 32nd Annecy International Animated Film Festival

by Doris Senn

The Croatian filmmaker Veljko Popovic’s She Who Measures (Ona Koja Mjeri) is an animated short lasting about six minutes. Watercolors and paintings in black ink complement each other in a mixture of two- and three-dimensional animation.

She Who Measures tells the story of the creation of a set of filigree humanoids with large heads, which are bred in green water tanks. With Smiley-like metal masks over their faces, and equipped with shopping carts, they march in single file through a wasteland. The rhythm is set by a pot-bellied clown leading the small caravan. With his long staff, he conducts the little group, and from time to time, he literally shits sweets, tiny dolls and other colorful knick-knacks, which the small figures eagerly pick up and put into their carts.

This ambivalent activity is observed by a maskless maverick crossing the path of the group. He tries to divert the creatures from their routine and to tear their Smiley masks from their faces. In so doing, what was hidden behind each mask is revealed both to him and to us: A blaring television screen where the newest products are advertised non-stop — commercials we know well enough. Our hero’s efforts, however, are in vain: The clown puts everything back in place, and the small crew marches on. Whilst our insubordinate hero wearily plods through the barren wasteland, finally throwing himself off the edge of the world into an abyss, the little slaves of consumerism are at the end of their tether. They draw their last breath next to their jam-packed shopping carts … but the next generation is already growing in those green tanks.

She Who Measures is the first film by the 29-year old Popovic, who has studied art but earns his living creating computer graphics for the advertising industry. Accordingly he calls his debut film a “pleasant counterpart” to his commissioned work, which serves the consumer society he portrays here with such acrimony. Last but not least, Popovic considers his film to be a little satire about the latest social development in some Eastern European countries: The rapid opening-up to capitalism during the last decade, which has resulted in the establishment of countless private television stations that lull citizen with their programs, and a frightening increase in the number of consumer temples. However, She Who Measures captivates us not only with its social criticism expressed entirely through images, but also with its aestheticism — especially the suggestive background landscape (painted on corrugated cardboard, then scratched) through which the tiny figures proceed. The sheer expanse additionally accentuates the forlorn nature of the humanoids, mindlessly wasting their lives in chasing after the many useless objects in our world of consumerism.