Artist, director and animator Mike Raymond stares into the void and finds a Norse god.
Drawing inspiration from legendary anime director Satoshi Kon’s Tokyo Godfathers, artist Mike Raymond proceeds to join the dots between the old Norse Edda, Chris Cunningham’s video for ‘Only You’ by Portishead and The Lord Of The Rings with Urðr, a nightmarish sequence of stunning, hand-painted CGI and foreboding sound design. Centering around a solitary old man, illuminated by a Victorian street light on a bench in the snow, the film follows his encounter with the tituar Urðr, one of the three Norns of Norse mythology, who draw from a scared well to tend to the world tree, Yggdrasil, while deciding upon the fates of human beings.
“In the last few years I have been thinking a lot about certain rules I like to aim for,” explains the artist. “With CG being so endless, sometimes it can just be too extreme. One of the big turning points was through a phase of watching a lot of stop motion. I was having issues with characters and scenes feeling too sterile and I knew I wanted to make emotionally real films, films that felt alive, as opposed to photorealism. Having super realistic human characters and accurate environments was actually part of the problem and in fact stripping things back improved things. I started animating at 10-15 frames per second, hand painting all the textures, particularly for characters skin. When setting up a scene I restricted myself to a certain size as if it was a stop motion set on a table or a sound stage.”
“A big part of my work is centred around this black void I have come to name the Rabbit Hole, a name which is tied to a bigger project that’s been stuck in my mind for a few years,” he continues. “This was probably born out of necessity and not having the budget to work on backgrounds, but is something I have completely fallen in love with. There is a certain lore that has slowly evolved over time and will continue to. It’s a place where you confront your demons, for better or worse. It can trap you, it is a force of its own but can also be used and sometimes can be a mode of transport, between worlds, time, reality and fantasy. It’s become a big part of my language.”
Raymond utilizes this Lynchian nightmare space to drift fluidly between a series of evocative images, from snow illuminated against the dark, grime smudged across the old man’s weather beaten face, the weird, folkloric eroticism of Urðr’s eerie dance, a luminous apparition evoking old trauma and the ominous symbolism of young saplings twisted into a living rune. “I’m not sure I actually remember how the story came about and how all this Norse mythology got tangled in, but I knew I wanted it to be about his past,” says Raymond. “I think it’s one of those ones that just come to you, maybe the Rabbit Hole sent it?”