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Ra: The Path of the Sun God (1990)

Courtesy of Lesley Keen

Main image of Ra: The Path of the Sun God (1990)
35mm, 72 min, colour
DirectorLesley H. Keen
Production CompanyPersistent Vision Animation
ProducerJan Culik
ScreenplayLesley H. Keen
AnimatorLesley H. Keen
NarratorTamara Kennedy
NarratorMichael Mackenzie

The Egyptian genesis - the story of Osiris and Isis and their battle with their evil brother Set. The battle symbolises the ongoing conflict between the universal forces of creation and destruction.

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This trilogy is interesting technically, as it shows a virtuosity of rostrum technique, combined with stylised and painstaking animation drawing.

It is a very appropriate choice of technique for the subject matter, the creation myths of ancient Egypt, as the glowing line stands for a spiritual world parallel to the world of the physical, which is often represented through solid painted figures.

The ponderous, careful quality of the animation line and the unmodulated, slow pacing give the viewer an almost trance-like emotional detachment from the story, while the music contributes to the hypnotic effect.

The figures move like somnambulists, but sometimes undergo satisfying and beautiful transformations. The film is dreamlike and seductive, but demands a great deal of an audience, as it lacks anything approaching a traditional story structure. While the film narrates the events from ancient Egyptian mythology, the alien quality of the story, and the almost monotone voice-over mean that we are not drawn in and swept along with any sort of identification with the characters, or desire to find out what happens next. Instead, our satisfaction must come through contemplation of the jewel-like unfolding images.

The film actually achieves a look which could now be reached relatively easily by digital means. But here the glowing lines on a black background are the product of careful craft and calculation by the animator and rostrum operator. They do have the precious quality of the hard-won image.

Ruth Lingford

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Video Clips
1. Dawn (3:46)
2. Noon (2:51)
3. Night (4:01)
Channel 4 and Animation
Women's Animation