"The Quiet Life" Case Study


A wonderful little short film by Timothy Hittle, "The Quiet Life" is the third of the Jay Clay feature series. Originally about a nomad and his dog and their adventures, things take a slightly different direction in this instalment.

The exposition of the story sets the scene beautifully, first using a few nice wide shots and pans to show the audience the setting and landscape or the environment. Also note the references to Hittle's previous animations in the series, with Canhead now appearing as a garden ornament in Jay's new garden, a sign of a past conquest if ever there was one. All of this adds to the newly found nature of Jay - no longer that of a wanderer and vagrant, but now of a home-owner, and a proud one at that. Nothing makes this more clear than his house-proud actions during this opening section. The slow pace is relaxing and letting the viewers into Jay's world and letting them see just who he is. Small movements like how he spins the broom, and his casual smooth gait let you know he's in good shape and enjoying his easy-going life.

Enter the dying bird - the start of conflict in Jay's perfect world. His home is invaded and damaged, a good metaphor for his life at the moment - something he had worked hard to get just right has been suddenly thrust into strife. The arrival of an attractive stranger on a horseback, warning him of the impending danger brings out two aspects in the protagonist; that of the possibility of a love interest, but also that of impending danger. His stubborn nature is shown with his reluctance to give up his home (a good side to this character trait), as well as his dismissive gestures towards an opportunity to forge a relationship with someone new in his life (the obvious downside to his stubbornness). This backstory and emotion is told through Jay's internal dynamics and movement alone.

Soon enough, the crisis unfolds and his worst fears are realised as his home is destroyed. The machine making it's impression on the landscape with bright red (psychologically notorious for danger) 'waste' standing out amount the muted browns and golds of the landscape.  The 'Canhead' fountain is a great metaphor for Jay's mind, being turned off when danger first approaches [putting past glories behind him to face a new threat], then reaching into it to extract the tools needed to fend off this new threat [using what he did back then to help defeat this new threat].

During the final climactic fight scene, we see much faster frantic action, as well as a change in the sounds of the piece. An angry electric guitar for all the scene involving the skeleton, giving him his own unique sound, and much more menacing.

As well as this, there are some great point-of-view close up shots to accentuate punches during the fight, and some nice metaphors such as the skeleton 'wiping his feet' of Jay after supposedly defeating him.

After the fight is over the story is resolved and Jay is able to take up the offer of a love interest in true 'happy-ending' style. Also, a cheeky little hit back from the resurrected skeleton, leaving that character open to a comeback in the future? With the rebirth of the bird, phoenix style, it leaves us knowing that despite the loss of his home, it's alright as he's been left with the journey of rebuilding again, this time with some company of his own kind. Almost like a family.

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