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'Rocks In My Pockets' Uses Old-Fashioned Animation To Explore The Darkness Of Depression

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Unlike big studio animated films that use computer-generated graphics to push the limits of depicting reality, Signe Baumane uses the medium to explore an inner space in her latest work Rocks In My Pockets. The Latvian-born animator uses Rocks so much as a therapeutic exercise that the viewer can be left feeling like they are imposing on Baumane's own head space. It's a welcoming space though, as Baumane's old fashioned combination of hand-drawn and stop-motion animation (inspired by both Bill Plympton and Jan Svankmajer, equally) feels so quaint and charming, even if the subject matter at hand is rather quite dark.

Rocks In My Pockets is a personal work explores Baumane's own depression and her family's history of mental illness that spans multiple generations women, compounded by the circumstances of 20th century Europe, decades of Soviet rule, and societal expectations of women. The film's animation, as cute as it can be, isn't exactly photogenic most of the time but Baumane is clever with her manipulation of figurines and scale to portray what exists only within the head of herself and ancestors that have since passed. Her heavily-accented English voiceover has a rhythm that makes this exploration of what it feels like to have your genes "designed to be crazy" even more off-kilter.

Baumane disparages psychiatric medications (which might offend those who share a similar struggle themselves), but it's important to remember that Baumane never sets the scope of this work beyond her own personal self. When the film opens, we see an animated figure we soon figure out is Baumane's avatar of herself, tasked with pushing a papier-mâché boulder up a slope. It's a job that she tackles alone.

Rocks In My Pockets opens today at Laemmle's Royal in West L.A.