Directed and Animated by Maya Erdelyi
Music and Sound Design by Paul Fraser
Winner of the 2013 Barbara Aronofsky Award at The Ann Arbor Film Festival
An abstract narrative, “Pareidolia” explores the landscape/architecture of the body as a container of memories. Layers of stories, dreams and memory fragments are interconnected like muscle fibers. The film uses bleached and distressed film stock, cut-paper puppets, stop-motion sets, hand-drawn animation, and various hybrid techniques. The word pareidolia’ translates to ‘making meaning from random stimulus. The narrative is meant to be a kind of excavation and re-working of memory, bleaching, re-ordering reality, scratching, cutting, pasting, sourcing, re-mixing. Through a re-imagining of family stories and life events, the film connects my own transformative experience of witnessing public cremations in India to my Great Grandmother’s miraculous survival of a mass killing by Hungarian Nazis along the banks of the Danube in 1944.
I was always haunted by this family story. My great-grandmother Margit was taken hostage by Hungarian Nazis in 1944. She was held in a basement with 14 other people. Terrible things happened in that basement. After about a week of barely eating, no toilet, rape, manual labor, the hostages were taken at midnight to the banks of the Danube River in Budapest. They were told to lie face down in the snow. Meanwhile, my Great-Grandfather Deszo was in a hospital praying for Margit. Apparently he prayed all night, non-stop, and around 3 am he stopped, feeling at peace—that somehow, she was ok. As the story goes, Margit was laying face down in the snow, she felt something cold on her neck and heard a ‘click’ but nothing happened. She layed in the snow for a long time. Finally after maybe 30 minutes of laying still in the frigid snow, Margit decides she must get up or she’ll freeze to death. She slowly lifts her head and sees that the soldiers have indeed left. She quickly checks her watch, it’s about 3 am. As she gets up Margit realizes that there is blood all over the snow, and that every single person has been shot dead, except for her. Margit somehow finds the courage to walk and travel miles and miles late at night and early morning in curfewed Budapest to find my Grandmother who is in hiding in the countryside at the house of a minister.
When I traveled in India and saw public cremations for the first time in the holy city of Varanasi, I was in shock. A body was burning, a woman was doing laundry to the left, a young boy was playing ball on the right, cows were idly walking by, life continued on. The flames and death reminded me of the Holocaust. They reminded me of the experiences that my Hungarian Jewish family endured. In that moment, my own experience and understanding of death connected me to what Margit had experienced. I thought a lot about how memory is embedded in the body.How her experience lived on in my DNA, and in the stories passed down to me from my Grandmother. I thought about how our minds are like cabinets of curiosities, or little Joseph Cornell boxes, memories are fragmented, compartmentalized. In one section we have burning bodies, in another a fallopian bird creature, or perhaps some beating breathing organs having their own psychedelic rhythym and life. I thought about relationships and how our heads, like our houses, are these small universes, that somehow also find a way to connect to one another. And lastly, I thought about how I could make some meaning from all of this randomness.
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