Read an essay about the movie by Gary M. Dault below:
BEE BOY: CHILDHOOD INTERRUPTUS
Although Sadko Hadzihasanovic’s animated film, Bee Boy, is only 45 seconds long, it required 400 of the artist’s painstaking, minutely sequential drawings to make it. An animated film, however charming, is a very inefficient visual engine, with a prodigious, gluttonous appetite for content.
Despite its labour-intensive compression—or maybe because of it—Bee Boy, brief in duration, long in suggestibility—is arguably that oxymoronic thing, a miniature epic.
As a virtuoso painter and draftsman, Hadzihasanovic, is not normally a filmmaker; he produced and “drew” this film, however, which his daughter, Hanna Jovin, directed and edited. He notes the film may have been partly prompted by his admiration for the graphic piquancy of the short animated films of South African artist William Kentridge (see, for example, his 9 Drawings for Projection). But he also cites a more direct source for the film—a story inspired by something that befell his father.
Hadzihasanovic says that in 1939, in Bihac, Bosnia, when his father was only six years old, he was playing in the garden when, as unlikely as it sounds, a swarm of bees suddenly descended onto the unsuspecting boy’s head. His plight alarmed what Hadzihasanovic refers to as “a man from the mosque” (one longs to know what man and what mosque) who quite sensibly yelled for help—which came quickly in the form of the boy’s grandmother, who valiantly smoked away the swarm with her billowing cigarette.
But what Hadzihasanovic has constructed here is not just a vivid family anecdote or an amusing / appalling shard of the inner mnemonic landscape. Bee Boy—despite its radical storytelling economy (or because of it)—has all the clarifying force of a moral tale. It’s a miniscule story about bravery, about courage, is it not? Or foolhardiness (but how could the boy have suspected there’d be bees?)? Or bravado? Mostly, I think it’s about hubris.
Hubris, the exhilarating state of rising above oneself. Here, as the film begins, is Hadzihasanovic’s father-to-be, walking briskly away from the viewer, heading
confidently—perhaps over-confidently—to a waiting chair (and a not very stable-looking chair at that) and beginning to clamber up onto it—a climb made up of equal parts uncertainty and determination.
One of the things I love about this masterful little film is the way Hadsihasanovic’s animated line boils and roils and percolates and pulses, becoming a convincing graphic outering and uttering of the boy’s tremulousness itself, of his gleeful, risky will. This continually frenetic agitation of the line may well be a normal low-tech by-product of the way animated films like this are made. Nevertheless, the effect of the constantly throbbing line is to generate in the viewer an inescapable sense of the boy’s self-appointed high-pressure, high-anxiety state. We behold what he enacts—and even what he feels.
Having attained the chair (which is as shaky as he is), the boy carefully stands up on it—a growing smile of accomplishment on his face—and turns proudly (and carefully) to face the viewer. This is as triumphant a moment as first climbing Everest must have been. The boy climbs the chair because it is there. He over-reaches himself. But perhaps his pride, honestly enough earned, is nevertheless too excessive, too provocative, not to have angered certain malevolent bee-gods.
The bees come out of nowhere. They descend like the Queen of the Night in The Magic Flute. Their maelstrom-like, vortex-like swarming is represented by lines of a different, rougher, scarier texture than the boy’s lines or the chair’s lines. These bees are not honey-giving, living lozenges of sweetness and light. These bees are tough and angry. Their swarming defeats the boy, obliterates, obfuscates, overwhelms him. The swarm overwhelms us too, filling and blackening the screen. All the puerile bravery in the world cannot prevail against this other-worldly descent.
The film thus offers us an innocence we can understand (a beatitude of courage and self-possession), and then threatens it with a disturbing, almost extra-terrestrial inexplicability we cannot understand. The juxtaposition of the two is funny, sad, whimsical and really terrifying.