The Thing Under The Tree is a video made by the artist Lily Fang, who was a finalist for an “Adobe Design Achievement Award” in 2013. The fantasy genre is not the one that first appeals to me, but I decided to have a look at it anyway with an open mind.
I was pleasantly surprised to find that right from the beginning I identified with teenager Tam, who was split between playing with her cellphone and entertaining her younger sister (I have a six years younger sister). Annoyed by the constant requests of her younger sister Gabby to tell her a story or play with her, she takes Gabby outside and invents a story about a monster that lives in the forest. She tells her that she should never let the monster see her face. When her phone rings, she has to go and doesn’t have the time to tell her sister more about the “thing”. So, Gabby is left with only her imagination to entertain herself, alone in the forest.
From this moment, the movie does very well in switching between the realistic and fantasy realms.
From an artistic standpoint, the detail of the forest and the figures is absolutely amazing. Since it was an “Adobe Design Award” nominee, I’m assuming all of the elements were computer generated. But, the attention to detail in the bark, the pieces of chestnut shells, sticks, acorns, and grass, etc. in the forest seem as though the artist has actually constructed the scene with actual materials.
Indeed, the forest they enter is far from any real forest but the details enable you to understand that this is a forest.
The fantasy comes with the imagination of the younger girl imagining the “thing under the tree” once her sister leaves. As an homage to ‘Alice in Wonderland’, or ‘Pan’s Labyrinth’, Gabby looks into the lair of the “thing” and decides to enter. Eventually, her older sister will enter in the fantasy as she returns to apologize for leaving Gabby in the woods… the adventure is well underway by that point.
Aside from the fact that I love to have been thrown into a microscopic universe, surrounded by organic matter that looks and sounds, well, real, the movie is visually pleasant and could be a comment of how electronic devices –like a cell phone- takes away our need for creation or limits our imagination. I urge everyone to take five minutes to watch it, especially for the aesthetics and the whimsical story.