| 5 min
Selections and Awards
Fusing elements of Kafka and Kubrick, Caterpillarplasty is a prescient, grotesque sci-fi satire that lifts plastic surgery to another level.
A prescient, grotesque sci-fi satire that lifts plastic surgery to another level. Set in a state-of-the-art clinic, in a world where advanced technologies have given rise to new standards of beauty and prestige, Caterpillarplasty offers its sardonic take on a social obsession with beauty that’s spiralled out of control.
“Are you tired of living in a cocoon? Our clinic specializes in the revolutionary Caterplastics™ treatment to help shed your old skin and transform you into the beauty you were born to be. Dr. Sommervogel and his team at the Iridescent Lifestyle Institute are waiting for you.”
Fusing elements of Kafka and Kubrick, Caterpillarplasty is a prescient, grotesque sci-fi satire that lifts plastic surgery to another level. The film is set in a state-of-the-art clinic that mirrors a twisted cultural and economic system, a world where advanced technologies have cultivated new standards of beauty and prestige. As aggressive body modifications become an increasingly popular fad, the unnatural becomes natural, giving rise to a new kind of ostensible beauty that is costing us our individuality—and with it, our humanity.
Created with surgical precision by filmmaker David Barlow-Krelina, Caterpillarplasty is a technical wonder of 3D animation and rendering tools, notably “subsurface scattering”—a shading technique that simulates the ways in which light interacts with skin, creating a glossy, sterile environment that’s both horrifying and hypnotic.
Directed, animated, designed and written by Barlow-Krelina (Bless You, A Horse Throat), and produced by Jelena Popović (Hedgehog’s Home, I’m OK, Manivald), Caterpillarplasty offers its sardonic, psychedelic take on a social obsession with beauty that’s spiralled out of control.
NFB BLOG INTERVIEW
I was intrigued by the process of insect metamorphosis and how the caterpillar undergoes complete disintegration inside the chrysalis before emerging as something new. It deals with the notion of shedding the old to become something more beautiful.
I wrote the initial idea for Caterpillarplasty during a phase when I was completely absorbed by stories revolving around research on psychedelic drugs conducted in the ’60s. I was caught up in the excitement about these substances and their potential to be used as agents in psychotherapy that could allow the individual to make dramatic positive changes to their personalities. There was something intriguing about the mystery, controversy and spiritual motifs surrounding these substances, as well as their usage for centuries in ceremonies to enable encounters with the divine and facilitate spiritual transformation.
The desire to undergo positive change is ever-present in our society. On the individual level, self-help books, podcasts, motivational speakers, and new-age retreats show us the path to becoming more beautiful versions of ourselves. On the institutional level, religious, political, and social movements with masses of followers and charismatic leaders profit from a narrative that says, “Where we are now is an impure state, but not to worry, we offer a solution to help you become something better.”
I found myself thinking a lot about where we’re going as a species, with rapidly accelerating technology, and human genetic modification and cloning becoming more of a reality. The title Caterpillarplasty has a number of connotations, including the notion of interspecies hybrids and mythological creatures like the chimera. There was something unsettling about the idea of humans being so clever in some ways—having a great deal of mastery over the material world—yet being so out of touch in others. I wanted to make a film that uses a ramping-up narrative structure, where the scenes are continually one-upping each other and moving further and further away from anything we consider to be normal.
I imagined a fictional “beauty cult” that holds certain aesthetic values as religious dogma. An institution in a fictional universe that has its own set of rituals and mythologies where the butterfly is a divine symbol and the people engage in practices to move closer to that image of perfection. The people in this society think they are beautiful, but they’re so self-obsessed and caught up in their own heads that they’ve lost touch with anything real.
I have always been interested in science fiction, psychedelia, the unknown, the alien and the grotesque. Insects fall into this category. The butterfly is used as a shorthand symbol for positive transformation in beauty salons all over the world. Yet at the same time, some people find insects to be repulsive. The abstract symbol is beautiful, but the real thing is ugly.
In the same way, many ideological movements brand themselves with images that are uplifting and pure, but there’s often an unsettling underbelly that comes hand-in-hand with overly abstract symbols and guiding principles. I wanted to explore this interplay of abstract-real, beauty-ugliness, attraction-repulsion, expressing it through 3D animation and digital sculpture in vivid detail. I wanted to use caricature and exaggeration to depict the warped sensibilities of the fictional society. The people desire to become the butterfly.
I imagined how funny the human species must look from the perspective of aliens on the outside looking in. A society full of self-obsessed techno-primates, who make sincere efforts to improve their situation but are continually becoming trapped in ideological feedback loops or overcomplicated technology. I wanted to make a film that recognizes this tendency in each of us, and to celebrate the absurdity of it all through animation, music and storytelling.
Blame it on that cool high school teacher.
With his strongest grades in maths and physics, David Barlow-Krelina seemed destined for a career in the pure sciences — but a graphic design teacher in his last year of high school pointed him in an altogether different direction.
Jump forward a decade or so and the would-be scientist is hard at work in the NFB Animation Studio, performing the final nips and tucks … (click to read the interview on the NFB blog)
Director and Animator
Photo : Yannick Grandmont
Born in 1988 in Ottawa, David Barlow-Krelina graduated from Concordia University in film animation and computation arts. His first independent film Bless You (2013) was an online hit and screened at the OIAF, The Animation Show of Shows etc. Mixing classical animation and modern CGI to tell experimental narratives, David’s joy of animating is in the ability to create glimpses into new and unusual universes that function by their own unique logic.
Photo : NFB
Producer at the NFB Animation Studio since January 2014, Jelena forged her skills as production manager and associate producer on conventional, interactive and hybrid documentary and animation films. She directed and co-wrote the documentary The Knights of Orlando (2007) and edited Patrick Doyon’s Oscar-nominated short Sunday, as well as three editions of NFB’s acclaimed Hothouse program. She co-produced with Marcy Page Theodore Ushev’s Blood Manifesto (Prix Créativité, FNC 2015), Sheldon Cohen’s My Heart Attack, (Best Animated Short, Cleveland Int’l Fest) and Munro Ferguson’s Minotaur VR. With Maral Mohammadian, she co-produced Naked Island, a series of public service alerts by some of the top Canadian animators exposing the dark underbelly of modern times. Her latest releases are Hedgehog’s Home, a stop-motion fable about cherishing one’s home directed by Eva Cvijanović and co-produced by Vanja Andrijević (Bonobostudio, Croatia), which won over 30 prizes including Special Mention at Berlinale and Prix Jeune public in Annecy, and Manivald, a gender-ambiguous tale about the boomerang generation by Chintis Lundgren, a coproduction with Estonia and Croatia selected at Sundance, SXSW, Annecy and awarded at OIAF, LIAF, NYSFF, Aspen, Denver, Manchester etc.
Executive Producer (NFB)
Michael Fukushima has been making films since 1984. He joined the NFB in 1990 to direct the animated documentary Minoru: Memory of Exile (1992), winner of the Hot Docs Best Short Documentary award. Michael became an NFB animation producer in 1997, co-founding the NFB’s flagship emerging filmmaker program, Hothouse, in 2002 and was appointed executive producer of the NFB’s fabled Animation Studio in 2013.
Some notable films in his filmography include Genie Award winner cNote (2004), by Chris Hinton; Shira Avni’s animated documentary Tying Your Own Shoes (2009), which won the Golden Dove at DOK Leipzig and the prestigious NHK Japan Prize; Muybridge’s Strings (2011), by Oscar-nominated Japanese filmmaker Koji Yamamura; Oscar-nominated films Dimanche (2011), by Patrick Doyon, and Me and My Moulton (2014), by Torill Kove; and, most recently, Cordell Barker’s If I Was God… and Ann Marie Fleming’s Window Horses. Michael now mostly produces the producers and offers up sagacity, but he continues to keep his hand in—this year, on the first short film in two decades by Oscar winners Alison Snowden and David Fine, and on Oscar winner Torill Kove’s new film, Threads.
Written and Directed by
Design & Animation
Modeling & Animation
Alexandre Francoeur Barbeau
Han Han Li
Stéphanie Weber Biron
Lighting & Rendering
Greg Debicki & Vid Cousins
Greg Debicki (Samples & Remix)
Adam Kinner (Saxophone)
Sarah Pagé (Harp)
Foley and Music Recording
Jean Paul Vialard
Titles and Credits
Rosalina Di Sario
Produced by the National Film Board of Canada
About the NFB
The National Film Board of Canada (NFB) is a leader in exploring animation as an artform, a storytelling medium and innovative content for emerging platforms. It produces trailblazing animated works both in its Montreal studios and across the country, and it works with many of the world’s leading creators on international co-productions. NFB productions have won more than 7,000 awards, including seven Oscars for NFB animation and seven grand prizes at the Annecy festival. To access this unique content, visit NFB.ca.