Film run-time: 9 minutes | Starring Richard Condie, Leonard Waldner, Muriel Hogue
Written, Directed and Animated by Cordell Barker, Music by Benoit Charest, Additional Animation by Chris Cormier and Jason Doll
“Runaway“, a 2009 short film by Cordell Barker, is an exuberant tale of slapstick proportions, suffused with a social commentary that lends the film a license to double as sobering metaphor. A train conductor’s dalliance with a passenger leaves his assistant alone to steer the train, and when the car hits a cow grazing on the railway tracks, it spirals out of control at increasingly disastrous speeds.
Beautifully drawn of whimsical actions and hyperbolic landscapes, the film is a wonderful combination of free-hand animation and computer graphics, utilized to their best effect through Barker’s assured direction of incisive cuts and action-packed compositions. Using colour to clearly delineate the passenger cars’ class difference, a focused diversion of two distinct bodies is created, by subjecting the lower class to a motley of mismatched colours and the upper class a regal lavender and reserved black.
At its climactic turn, the film pits the upper class against the lower as the train struggles to surmount a difficult hill climb, one so arduous as to require more fuel than the train was stocked for. Fresh out of coal and needing additional materials to burn, the upper class begins soliciting items from the lower in a bid to push the train forward—clothes; furniture; the floor boards of their car. Left barren and bare, the lower class is then dislodged through a removal of the car’s coupling pin, left without even with the money that was given to buy everything they owned.
Life is not without equilibrium and irony, as the train functions metaphorically as the continuum of the world. As the weight of the extant car no longer carries the burden of the lower class, the engine now overcompensates, resulting in a fiery end for the remaining passengers. Read as an indictment of the income disparity between both classes, the film may be a reminder that we all exist in the same economy and ecosphere; we cannot exist on our own, and we must unite to survive in the long term.