Rocks in My Pockets

Rocks in My Pockets


»My mind feels like a badly wired building«

Signe Baumane, the American-Latvian filmmaker, does not beat around the bush in her first full length darkly comic animation and thematically immediately catches its tail, or rather – its noose. "My grandmother Anna was a smart woman, but she still forgot to fill her pockets with stones when she tried to drown herself," says the director's voiceover in rock-hard Soviet-Latvian English with a tone of regret, because her grandmother was not as successful as Virginia Wolf, and cynically continues "that she would, for example, know that the noose needs to be lathered so that there is no friction."

Animation is, with its diversity and unlimited possibilities of imagination, a great tool for showing the complexity of mental illness, which was more than confirmed in 2008 by Jeremy Clapin with the short animation Skhizein.



Signe Bauman has, in the autobiographical collage of stories about the mental illness of five women from her family (she is one of them) also taken complete advantage of the freedom of visual narrative. In the mixed media format, she set the conventional hand-drawing (she created 30,000 for this film!), into the framework of exquisite 3D stop-motion sets, made with the help of paper mâché, cardboard and wood.


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In the film, she battles with her own demons and loudly questions the family mythology, in which the mental illness was always addressed only euphemistically, while repeating the mantra "What will the neighbors think?" because it was considered to be a weakness. The mental abstractions, and the retreats into the irrational and ill are embraced in surreal, twistedly-grotesque visual metaphors: a sense of the illness taking over is drawn in a balloon, rimmed with razorblades, which inflates in the abdomen of the director's avatar; in a failed marriage, the wife changes into a huge fish that is slipping out of her husband’s hands; and a large glass bell in the manner of Sylvia Plath sketches the feeling of being trapped for yet another heroine in the role of both a wife and a mother.


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With her own narration in a dark tone, she reflects ironically through alternating stories in a stream of thought, which in its ramifications represent some kind of a family chronicle of psychiatric disorders. During a detective-like search through memories of relatives in various branches of the family tree - from her grandmother to various cousins - she is looking for the roots of her own illness, while the black humor more than serves her as a means for a sincere verbalization of the painful or of the previously unsaid.

Signe Bauman has collected the modest film funds also with the help of Kickstarter. Rocks in my pockets became the first animated film to be shown at the film festival in Karlovy Vary, during which the director also won the prestigious FIPRESCI critics’ prize.

The film can be still seen during Animateka, this Sunday at 20.00 in Kinodvor.


Petra Meterc

Translation: Sanja Struna

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