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Мотылёк - Butterfly
July 14, 2008 10:43 AM   Subscribe

Мотылёк - Butterfly - is just a sweet little Russian cartoon (with subtitles) (and foxes). I seem to get a little speck of something in my eyes when I watch it for some reason.
posted by Wolfdog (30 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite

 
Why is Soviet animation so wonderful? It's soulful in a way that American animation rarely achieves.
posted by Bromius at 11:14 AM on July 14, 2008


Also, were two ??????? tags really necessary?
posted by Bromius at 11:28 AM on July 14, 2008


that was lovely. thanks, wolfdog.
posted by CitizenD at 11:30 AM on July 14, 2008


Delightful!

It's well subtitled, except that the line (right after they enter the forest) "Интересно, где это мы?" should be "I wonder where we are?" instead of "Interesting... where are we?" Russians automatically start sentences like that with Интересно ['It's interesting'], a tic that should not be reproduced in English.
posted by languagehat at 12:02 PM on July 14, 2008


This was wonderful. Thank you.
posted by redhanrahan at 12:17 PM on July 14, 2008


I don't get it. I mean, I get the point of the story, but I don't get what makes this better than any other animated morality play. The fawning comments here and on the YouTube page make me wonder what everyone else is seeing.

This is not a thread-crap. I would be very interested if anyone else could critically illuminate their positive response.
posted by rusty at 12:28 PM on July 14, 2008


For me, I love the gentle pace at which the story unfolds, the quiet actions of the characters, the importance of the small "good deed" in letting the butterfly go- it's a story about goodness being an every day affair, and the march of time as another facet of life's beauty and wonder, not something to be feared or grieved over.
posted by redhanrahan at 12:36 PM on July 14, 2008 [2 favorites]


Could someone give a pronunciation for that? I'm curious how it compares to "mariposa".
posted by Kickstart70 at 12:38 PM on July 14, 2008


A straight letter to letter transliteration would be Motilyok.
posted by TrialByMedia at 12:46 PM on July 14, 2008


What the... do they not know how dangerous it is to mess around with butterflies in the past? Have they not seen "A Sound of Thunder"???
posted by tadellin at 12:48 PM on July 14, 2008


It's transliterated motylek or motylyok and sounds something like muh-till-YAWK. It's a diminutive of motyl' 'mosquito grub,' which is related to Old Russian motyla 'dung, manure' and Old Church Slavic mesti 'throw away' and presumably originally meant something like 'dung beetle.' No relation to Spanish mariposa, which is apparently (according to the Real Academia) from Mari, short form of María, plus posa, 2nd pers. sing. imperative of posar (posarse is 'alight, land'). Words for 'butterfly' are widely divergent (cf. this LH post).
posted by languagehat at 12:55 PM on July 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


The loveliest word, one can't deny,
In English is the butterfly;
And in Spain there's none who knows
A sound more sweet than mariposa.
The French will shrug and then intone,
''Le plus charmant, c'est papillon.''
But who would guess the Germans sing
Lieder to a Schmetterling?'
- Bud Sherak
posted by Bromius at 1:00 PM on July 14, 2008


I don't get it. I mean, I get the point of the story, but I don't get what makes this better than any other animated morality play. The fawning comments here and on the YouTube page make me wonder what everyone else is seeing.

Once, I imagine, I would have felt the same way. My own appreciation for things like this is something that I've come upon only recently (as in, the last ten years or so). Because of this, I don't believe it's something you just "get" or don't, it is definitely possible to acquire an understanding and appreciation for this kind of thing.

So, I will have an attempt at explaining it.

1. The poignancy comes from the passage of time, and how something happens that is not actually possible. Something happens that can never be.

2. Some of the characters except for Little Fox and Old Fox (and the Little Fox who would become Old Fox) are dead in the time of the framing story. Yet the past characters have their own hopes, some of which, such as the Grasshopper's, are dashed.

3. The unchangingness of life over time, even in the face of death, provides hope for the future. The experience of age helps the energy of youth to avoid that which would cause regret.

4. The caging of the butterfly. In the past, Old Fox puts it in a jar. When he comes back it is dead. One could take this figuratively: the butterfly is a symbol of youth and wonder, and something that happens to Old Fox while he's called away causes its loss. Young Fox's freeing of the butterfly, with grown Old Fox's help, and the further aid of Grandfather Fox's sword, bring about its return.

5. The final words spoken by Old Fox are important. Young Fox is told that everything is possible. But when asked to clarify, Old Fox doesn't repeat this. He says that evil and cruelty should not be possible. Obviously they are possible, and Old Fox knows first-hand.

The use of animal characters and animation helps the story avoid becoming too depressing, while also lending it the universality, and expectation of metaphor, of folklore.

I guess, in the end, the poignancy of the animation may be something you have to come across for yourself. Maybe when you are older.
posted by JHarris at 2:03 PM on July 14, 2008


I think everything after the kid finds the mushrooms is a hallucination. I mean a few seconds later they find a talking grasshopper? With a fiddle?

I vote high.

[Actually, I'm at work and could only watch a minute or two. It seemed nice enough though.]
posted by quin at 3:34 PM on July 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


I think everything after the kid finds the mushrooms is a hallucination. I mean a few seconds later they find a talking grasshopper? With a fiddle?

I vote high.


Please don't be the asshole who takes all the charm and wonder out of quirky childhood things by turning them into lame drug parables. You people ruined "Puff the Magic Dragon."
posted by nasreddin at 4:19 PM on July 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


Elegant in its simplicity and surprisingly touching. Thank you.
posted by jagalt at 4:30 PM on July 14, 2008


The Masters of Russian Animation DVD box set is essential for fans of Russian animation.
posted by RGD at 5:04 PM on July 14, 2008 [2 favorites]


Thanks, Wolfdog.
posted by c13 at 9:57 PM on July 14, 2008


I think everything after the kid finds the mushrooms is a hallucination. I mean a few seconds later they find a talking grasshopper? With a fiddle?

I vote high.


Yes.

And?
posted by telstar at 3:36 AM on July 15, 2008


Dude, what do you think they were doing in the back of the Mystery Machine?
posted by redhanrahan at 7:16 AM on July 15, 2008


Интересно, thanks for that.

I don't get it. I mean, I get the point of the story, but I don't get what makes this better than any other animated morality play. The fawning comments here and on the YouTube page make me wonder what everyone else is seeing.

judging by the production standards, i'm guessing this came from the soviet era. thus, returning to the past, righting wrongs & saying that cruelty should never be possible would put this squarely into the kind of subversive art that can only be produced under the harshest of regimes & censorship.

this would make it more than a morality play. it would have been pushing the limits of what could have been said politically at the time. not quite bulgakov, though, but that would be asking a lot.
posted by UbuRoivas at 7:18 AM on July 15, 2008


Plus, "fawning" is kind of a shitty, insulting adjective for something that's not supposed to be a thread-crap.
posted by languagehat at 12:44 PM on July 15, 2008


Further to my allegory theory: the great-grandfather returning from the war would have originally handed the sword to the elder little fox, who became distracted by the news of his sister's birth, and allowed the butterfly to die.

Taking the butterfly as a common symbol for transformation & freedom, and locating the great-grandfather temporally at the time of WW1 & the Revolution (by his age and uniform), the handing over of the sword could be seen as a transfer of power, but one that allowed freedom to be neglected & die, under distraction from the birth of the sister (a new regime? a new society?).

The elder foxes comment that he did something very bad, and his words "Let's go, we have to do one important thing. It would be very good if we could fix this" strongly suggest to me such a political interpretation - ie a call to right the past.

Plus, there's a samovar on the table when the older fox is reading his paper. You've gotta love that.

Incidentally, I'd be interested to know if an (old) oak tree or a cricket have any particular symbolic meaning in Russian folk culture.
posted by UbuRoivas at 2:41 PM on July 15, 2008


(of course, the father fox would've been too young for the revolution in a strict reading, but the great-grandfather was all "well, i'm off to war again" which would suggest that it's a poke at the Stalinist era, at which time the father would've been around. but there's no reason to read an allegory *too* literally, especially when the writers would need plausible defences if hauled in front of the Cheka - "sorry, sir, but your interpretation doesn't make sense; it's just a kid's tale!")
posted by UbuRoivas at 2:51 PM on July 15, 2008


UbuRoivas, it's a nice interpretation, but it's quite strained--I think it's too tempting to attribute political significance to this kind of stuff. In the West one assumes that living under a totalitarian regime means you have to constantly work subversive meanings into everything, but believe it or not, in the USSR people continued to produce good creative work that was apolitical. Nothing of my experience of Soviet cartoons (having grown up with them) supports the idea that they were trying to secretly agitate for the downfall of the Soviet state.
posted by nasreddin at 7:45 PM on July 15, 2008


Maybe its just a poor animation of an obtuse, vague Russian folk tale?

(I agree with Rusty)
posted by yhbc at 7:49 PM on July 15, 2008


nasreddin, obviously subversive meanings don't need to be worked into everything but when between-the-lines readings are about the only way to get dissident political messages across to a wider audience, then when a potential subversive reading can be found, i wouldn't be inclined to dismiss it so quickly as a fanciful interpretation.

it might even be a simpsons-style approach - give the adults something to mull over & let the kids watch on a less subtle level; that way there's something for everyone!
posted by UbuRoivas at 8:52 PM on July 15, 2008


languagehat: You're right. "Fawning" has a bit too much negative baggage. But I couldn't think of a less pejorative way to describe "praising without any kind of explanation beyond 'Awwwww, adorable!'"
posted by rusty at 8:14 AM on July 16, 2008


This is lovely.
The fox's son didn't know that the fox had a sister. I could be overweighting this, but I thought maybe the baby sister didn't live, and this was linked in the fox's mind with the dead butterfly. He might not have been able to save his sister, but he could save the butterfly. The references to the brevity of life in the grasshopper scene made me think of this too.
posted by Pallas Athena at 1:08 PM on July 16, 2008


Perhaps the sister died in a gulag!
posted by UbuRoivas at 4:25 PM on July 16, 2008


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