Ryan is a dramatic, heart wrenching, and captivating tale of the rise and fall of a talented artist. Director and animator Chris Landreth, includes surreal imagery and intense symbolism in this short animated film. Intended for a mature audience this animation is thought provoking, and is likely to resonate with the viewer.
The animation begins with an introspective look at a mangled animated version of the director. He speaks of the taunting experiences that he has had and symbolically provides a visual display of the effects that these experiences have had on him. This provides a perfect introduction into the world of the startling protagonist Ryan. Ryan’s appearance immediately ambushes the viewer with emotion. Some viewers may feel disgust or maybe just ambivalence, but in my experience, at the sight of this dilapidated, cigarette smoking old man I felt great empathy. As the director begins to interview Ryan and people who were close to him, you begin to get a closer look at the type of character Ryan is, and through several perspectives. When Chris interviews Ryan’s wife and first love, she makes remarks about Ryan’s homosexuality and you begin to grasp Ryan’s complexity and the impact that his homosexuality, something intrinsic, had on his life, because of societal prejudice. Chris also provides the viewer with intriguing characters that surround him and Ryan. It seems almost as if they are in a room designed for dread and despair; a room full of characters that have been damaged, that Ryan and in some ways Chris have become a part of. Ryan was so passionate about his art that when he no longer was satisfied with it; he turned to drugs for an answer. This led to this artist’s demise and loss of self, which Chris so vividly showed us.
Overall Ryan was captivating and I would recommend it to anyone who has the desire to have a unique look at a very unique individual. When watching this film, one can learn much about society, individuality and humanity itself. We as an audience are lucky to have outliers like Chris Landreth and Ryan who are willing to take a step outside of mainstream art and show us something completely different and unique.
Ryan. Dir. Chris Landreth. National Film Board of Canada, 2004. DVD.