I went to Melbourne recently and it was a bad idea going in the winter, it was freezing! Despite that, I had a great time and the Shaun Tan exhibition totally made up for the shivering! The exhibition, which is still on, is about adapting his picture book “The Lost Thing” into a short film.
It might be a small exhibition but it was fantastic. There were a number of stations to listen to the process the team went through, from sound, to animation to capturing the quirkiness of the protagonist. There were some really interesting sound bites and short interviews concentrating on the process of creating the animation.
The short film is a fantastic adaptation (in my opinion!), and it some how makes the story all the more magical. It’s distinctly Australian; the narrator’s voice, the sounds of the trams and even some of the cityscapes placed me in an Australian city, but at the same time, there was still that air of mystery so that I couldn’t feel completely sure of my surroundings, or know exactly where I was. I don’t know how intentional that was, but I really liked that aspect of the production. It’s like mixing elements of the familiar with the unfamiliar just enough to throw the viewer slightly off balance.
One of the things I love about Shaun Tan’s stories and characters is that he is always looking at this idea of belonging. I love that in doing so, he often takes objects and things that are unfamiliar to the reader as a way to explore the issue. The layout of the pages also add to the theme of belonging or not belonging, as is the case with this story. The layers of detail on every page, is easy to miss when you first flick through the book but it doesn’t take long to realise that each page is filled with interesting information. It’s as though the text and illustrations have been stuck on to a text book or department handbook.
The story is about a boy who finds a lost thing, a strange object that doesn’t fit in to society. He takes it home and tries to figure out what to do with it. We end up following him on his journey to help this object. We go to the Department of Odds and Ends in the hope that they will know what to do, but like all government agencies there are many forms to fill in and hoops to jump through! In the end the lost thing finds a place to belong, which reinforces that everyone needs to feel a sense of belonging.
I now wonder, if it’s the same for objects, all those everyday items that seem to go missing… Maybe my sock isn’t missing after all, maybe it went in search of something…maybe there’s an entirely different world that we don’t know about, just like in “The Lost Thing”, a place where misplaced objects can be free and happy. If only my teaspoons would leave a note before they left….