New Animated Releases: The Flying Fish (2019) - Reviewed

You might not have heard of the Czech-Turkish artist Murat Sayginer before, but if you enjoy experimental, thought-provoking animation, he should be on your radar.  A self-taught digital artist, photographer, filmmaker, and composer, the multi-talented Sayginer should add “philosopher” to his impressive arsenal of skills.  His collection of shorts entitled The Flying Fish is not only a visual delight, but also deals with a lion’s share of lofty ideas, especially considering its short running time.

While there is no concrete narrative, there is imagery galore that makes the fragments flow together into one cohesive piece.  Creation is one of the most prominent themes here:  spheres join together to form human faces as if they were atoms, a luminescent, flowering tree evokes Eden, and the titular flying fish bring evolution to mind.  The passing of time and death also engulf this work’s rich imagery.  We are shown hourglasses and clocks throughout, as well as skeletons that have seemingly met their demise because of the 21st century’s ensnarements: one, for example, seems trapped under a shopping cart in the desert, while another is in a bathtub holding a cellphone and wearing a crown, suggesting capitalism’s stronghold on society and its imminent downfall. 

The Flying Fish’s iconoclastic, postmodern nature is one of its most interesting attributes.  We are affronted with everything from Jesus to Mickey Mouse displayed in surreal, slightly irreverent ways during this piece.  Classical Roman statues and architecture co-exist with astronauts and outer space in this hallucinogenic world that Sayginer has created, mingling the old with the new to create an uncharted dimension entrenched in science fiction and mysticism.  We see figures in gas masks practicing Eastern meditation, jumpsuited inmates imprisoned by the zodiac circle, and aliens residing among the ancient pyramids, simultaneously suggesting New Ageism and classicism in a way that feels bizarrely fluid.

The only criticism with this inspired work is that the vast amount of ideas presented to us at a rapid-fire pace don’t have enough room to breathe. There are so many themes co-existing throughout this compilation’s 21-minute running time that there’s barely enough time to process any of them.  If one were to watch any of the segments individually, they would be enough to digest, but shown in tandem, they feel overwhelming.  To do it justice, try watching the piece twice:  once to purely enjoy the stunning visuals, and a second time to peel back all of the layers.

The Flying Fish is a Dali-esque exploration of mythology, societal flaws, and the meaning of life in a kaleidoscopic, ultra-saturated landscape.  It is one part mystery, one part enlightenment, and entirely a trippy work of art.  If you’ve ever wondered what being on good mind-altering drugs is like, look no further than Murat Sayginer’s brilliant work.

--Andrea Riley