The availability of new technology usually inspires the artistic impulse to create something lovely and elaborate. But the pioneering 1974 short film, The Hunger (or La Faim, in the original French), feels—intentionally—both ugly and crude. The art has the feel of rough sketches, and only in the movement of the animation can you see the computer technology at work. It’s a strange, eery effect that is intensified by an artfully unsettling soundtrack.
The film received a Special Jury Prize at the 1974 Cannes Film Festival, a BAFTA Award for Best Animation Film, and was the first computer-animated film to be nominated for an Academy Award. What’s more, it was actually produced by the National Film Board of Canada, an agency of The Canadian Federal Government (and we can’t even get our government to fund food stamps?)
The plot is simple: a piggish man eats too much and is eventually devoured by the starving masses. It’s all told in a sort of animated Kafkaesque expressionism, and while I’ve always scoffed at the “sinfulness” of gluttony (especially since world hunger has very little to do with actual scarcity, and even less to do with the dietary habits of fat Westerners), it did disturb me enough to eschew cookies for breakfast this morning. It is grotesque, violent, nauseating, and truly stunning.