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Decision, The (1981)

British Film Institute

Main image of Decision, The (1981)
35mm, 33 mins, colour
Production CompanyBFI Production Board
DirectorVera Neubauer
ProducerVera Neubauer
ScriptVera Neubauer
PhotographyDavid Anderson

Cast: Nick Burton (narration); Elsie Murch (Old Woman); Samantha Franey (Princess); Nicky Straughan (Princess); Lucy Mulloy (Princess)

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A fairy tale - a princess's choice of suitors - acts as a framework for ruminations on gender politics, sexuality, motherhood and war. A mix of live-action, drawing, scratching on film.

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Vera Neubauer's The Decision (1981) is firmly rooted in the director's domestic surroundings. Her baby daughter's shitty bottom gives the film its arresting first shot, and her naked son plays cupid with a bow and arrow. The joys, angst and drudgery of motherhood are expressed in the raw.

Although perhaps a little rambling and over-inclusive from today's standpoint, this uncomfortable film has not lost its power to provoke. The relationship between man and woman is portrayed as the site of both great social inequalities and great sensuality and delight. Neubauer's playfulness and willingness to deal in contradictions may be what gives this film its enduring power and lets it transcend the condition of agit-prop.

Neubauer's raw, abrasive drawing style can segue into great beauty and eroticism. This direct minimal style of drawing has been developed by Neubauer and by her partner, Phil Mulloy, into a way of animating without the traditional shackles of accuracy and back-breaking toil. This has been a revelation to a new generation of animators who have found a looser, faster way of expressing themselves.

Neubauer's subsequent films have achieved greater focus, subtlety and fluency of story-telling. The Decision, however, stands as a landmark for all that is most courageous and uncompromising in women's animation.

Ruth Lingford

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