When we think about metamorphosis, often one image comes to mind: the butterfly. Starting as a caterpillar, then nestling in a cocoon. Eventually, it flies away with its new, colourful wings into the unknown. This is a physical example of transformative change, but there are plenty of other ways to showcase metamorphosis. On Tuesday the 28th of November, at Pakhuis de Zwijger we will further dive into this theme by screening three short films. Each one illustrates metamorphosis in their own way.

Essentially, metamorphosis is the transformation of things, people and phenomena into something else. It can either be a slow change, or a sudden, life-altering event. It can be biological, physical, mental, cultural and social. Think about rites of passage, and coming-of-age stories. Or the lifecycle including birth and death, and rebirth. Sometimes it is made explicit with animalistic features, sometimes through crossovers with mystical creatures. That being said, with those changes, a particular essence of their life stays the same. Looking at the butterfly again, the essence of the butterfly is similar with the caterpillar. In other words, through the lens of metamorphosis, we embrace change whilst acknowledging consistency.

In film, metamorphosis is often used metaphorically to describe a significant and often symbolic change in a person, character, society, or even an idea. It may involve a radical shift in appearance, character, or circumstance. The unfolding of a story over time allows filmmakers to delve into the complexities of change. Sometimes films can capture metamorphosis in a single shot. Sometimes the end of the film represents the end of the transition, and sometimes it is just the beginning. Moreover, multiple metamorphoses can happen simultaneously, not only singular. And maybe the character is not aware of the metamorphosis whilst it is happening, and will realise it after it happened, or never at all.

Let’s take a look at Disney’sBrother Bear” (2003). In this film, we see a coming-of-age story by the protagonist, Kenai, a human from the Indigenous Inuk community. In the beginning of the film, Kenai is set out to kill the bear that murdered his brother. To make him pay for this revenge murder and to give him a different perspective, spirits transform Kenai into a bear himself. This alteration functions as a way for Kenai to see the world through the eyes of the enemy, to learn about empathy, respect for and the interconnectedness of all beings. Moreover, as Kenai forms a bond with Koda, a young bear, he discovers the true meaning of brotherhood and forgiveness. Spoiler alert: at the end of the film, Kenai regains his human form. Then, the metamorphosis ends up being a symbol of his inner growth.

The films that will be shown during the “Synopses of Metamorphoses” event, reflect metamorphosis in their own way. For instance, in “The Anti-Family” by Melody Boorsma, Frankie Stein is introduced to a new family of monstrous creatures, after they have fled away from their bullies. Whilst this new family is more accepting of their ‘otherness’, Frankie’s journey to self-acceptance still comes with its challenges. The film portrays metamorphosis as a never-ending rollercoaster. However, metamorphosis can also be a circular motion, with no beginning or end. This is for instance noticeable in Xousha Eisenhardt’s “Laaggedij”: a mysterious white entity meets a red ball and together they melt into a new organism. Without giving too much away, the story of this white entity showcases the cycle of life and death and interconnectedness of all natural beings. This focus on nature is also visible in the final film “Pleasure Eels” by Noa Margulis, which is a post-porn that illustrates the life of eels. As a matter of fact, eels are non-binary animals and scientists do not know how they reproduce. Ultimately, the film tells a story of how eels find belonging through different sexual connections.

Reserve a seat here and watch these stories further unfold on Tuesday the 29th.