這是英國民謠歌手兼作曲家 Tom Rosenthal 的新曲 Oh No Pedro 的 MV，MV 導演正是旅英台灣動畫師趙安玲。
大約兩個半月前，Tom 詢問趙安玲，願不願意為他的新專輯 Fenn 製作動畫，十五首歌曲任選、故事自由發想，趙安玲二話不說，欣然應允。Tom 與趙安玲是舊識，對彼此的美學，都已建立了充分的認可與信賴，去年，他們便已合作過另一首歌曲──Lead Me To You，一拍即合，作品還榮獲 Vimeo Staff Picks。
試聽完整張專輯，趙安玲選定了 Oh No Pedro──一首反覆追問愛與失落的抒情歌，「我想說一個關於失去的故事，」趙安玲解釋。若單就歌詞看來，歌手唱出的彷彿是一段失去的戀情，但趙安玲聽到的，卻是失去的身分認同（Identity）。
「我問了 Tom 寫這首歌的想法，他希望角色失去一個東西，但他也不確定是什麼，那個東西可以現實，也可以抽象，卻都與本質相關。」從失去的表象，挖掘出內在的本質，便是趙安玲設定的故事核心──既符合歌手的創作理念，又不失個人詮釋的創意，「他聽到我想探討身分，也覺得很有趣，完全交給我自由發揮。」
為了更準確把握 Petro 的心情，趙安玲不分男女，訪問了許多同志友人。過去，趙安玲印象中的他們，「對生活總是比他人還坦然、自豪，表現得極度樂觀。」
那些出其不意滑過朋友臉龐的淚水，也從趙安玲的心上無聲流過，她突然理解他們的生命情境，就像歌詞裡那句，「He's lost his bag／Where's the last place you saw it, Pedro──一個人失去了抽象的聲音，只能想辦法用別的方式把自己裝起來......那永遠是心中一個很重的擔子。」
與 Lead Me to You 相同，這一次，趙安玲再度選擇讓動畫與舞者互動，時而彼此映照、時而相互競逐。「舞者和演員不同，演員著重誇張的面部表情，但舞者比較聚焦在身體。」如此靜默無言又無所不言，正是風格節制的趙安玲追求的表現形式。
原來，為了配合 Petro 的角色設定，男性舞者必須自身具備且能夠適時展現出個人的女性特質、游離於性別的曖昧地帶，並透過頻繁的自我撫摸，搭配動畫隱喻的女體，探測性與自我的疆界。
最後片中的 Petro，由年僅 22 歲的舞者 Alistair Wroe 擔綱演出。趙安玲看中的，正是他在男性強壯、高大的身材，與健康、陽光的外表之下，處處流瀉出的，女性的纖美與溫柔。趙安玲說，「我本來就不是要丟一個大鉛塊讓他去舉重，而是像風一樣，在舞動間彷彿被外力撐起，用纖細的舞蹈身體，表達強硬的精神。」
Oh No Petro 的編舞由 Alistair 和趙安玲共同完成，既有舞者的即興（freestyle），也有為配合劇情和動畫所需的指定動作，諸如以手掌撫摸自己的臉，或將手指由上身沿中軸向下延伸，直抵隱喻下體性徵的花叢。趙安玲一邊提出要求，一邊向 Alistair 描述概念：痛苦的就不能洩漏歡愉、自我戲謔的要慎防表露真心、動畫中，將有鮮花自頭頂破土，記得伸手摀住......。
或許是因為年輕，Alistair 心思單純，情緒表達直接，自然流露，毫不虛矯、刻意，十分符合趙安玲對作品的想像，「他的動作非常 chill，讓他雖然沒有演員的訓練，也能把訊息傳遞到位。」
趙安玲說，和 Alistair 談天時，他提到自己成長中也曾掙扎，「因為長相可愛，很受身邊人的喜愛，卻反而因此經常自我否定，自覺『我是受人喜愛的，不能辜負大家的期待』。」和 Petro 一樣，Alistair 走過一段無法大膽面對或試圖釐清自我的認同之路。
只是，這個看似圓滿的故事，仍有些美中不足之處，那就是 Alistair 至今無法對家人出櫃。「他說，他可以完全體會 Petro 的心情，但是又沒 Petro 那麼勇敢。」
自我的虛實，並非 Oh No Petro 唯一的主題，延續過去作品的關懷，趙安玲也在探討逐格動畫的現實（真人實景）與虛幻（動畫設計）之間，應該如何轉換，取得平衡。
片中這套粉紅色的舞衣，出自做戲劇服裝出身的設計師黃才駿之手，典型的幾何摺疊，儼然黃才駿的個人簽名，也是趙安玲平素就喜愛的樣式。於是，彷彿 Tom 放心的把自己的音樂交給趙安玲一般，趙安玲挑完基本的材質與顏色後，也放手將剩下的設計，全權交給黃才駿做主，隱然體現一種專屬於藝術家間的惺惺相惜。
在顏色的選擇上，粉紅色呼應的是 Petro 的女性內在。趙安玲補充，如果觀眾仔細觀察，會發現整部影片以藍與粉紅為主色調，目的就是要討論顏色與性別的政治：
「你有沒有發現，我們對嬰兒的刻板印象，就是男嬰要穿藍色、女嬰要穿粉紅色？所以，雖然 Petro 外表是男性，我卻讓他穿上符合自我認同的粉紅色，而當他來到一面藍色的鏡子前，鏡子裡卻出現粉紅色的、女性化的他。」
最後，當身高將近 190 公分的舞者，終於穿上精心設計的舞衣時，短版的上衣使得舞者腹部暴露在外，「看起來有點像小丑，有點戲謔、滑稽，很符合 Petro 的心情。」趙安玲滿意的說。
"It'll always be a personal battle, irrelevant from the rest of the world. " A take on identity crisis from Taiwanese film Director Annlin Chao
Past the wall of observers, the camera zooms in, slowly but surely towards the dancer in the pale background. The soft and fluffy top rests upon the well-built dancer, as if enclosing him in a pink bubble. He sits with his fingers clenched and back arched in front of the mirror, dejected. And as if on cue, he raises his head shocked to find the other him in the mirror filled with an extravagant growth of flowers and grass.
This is the MV of “Oh No Pedro”, the latest piece of British artist Tom Rosenthal, directed by the Taiwanese animator – Annlin Chao.
“This time, I want to tell a story about losing something” –she told me, her calm voice traveling across half the world from London to Taipei.
Losing Gender Identity: The women trapped in a man’s body
Around two and a half months ago, Tom asked Annlin if she would be willing to lead the animation for his new album Fenn, with her choice in any of the 15 songs and storyline. Annlin had agreed without any hesitation. With a long history, both Tom and Annlin had complete trust in each other’s artistic views. Just last year, their work together on “Lead Me to You” was awarded “Vimeo Staff Picks”.
After hearing the entire album, Annlin chose “Oh No Pedro”, a song of dejection and questions love. “I want to tell a story about loss” explained Annlin. Just from the lyrics, the artist seems to be singing the lost of love, but what Annlin heard, was the loss of identity
“I asked Tom what his thoughts were on the song – he wanted the main character to lose something, but he wasn’t sure what exactly. It could be something tangible or something abstract. Either way, it didn’t change the theme of loss”. Discovering the essence under the appearance of loss was the key concept in Annlin’s story – it adhered to the artist’s creative intent, as well as incorporated her personal interpretation. “When he heard that I wanted to explore the idea of ‘identity’, he thought it was an interesting idea and gave me full rein.”
In Annlin’s script, Pedro is a woman's soul trapped inside a man’s body. His reflection in the mirror is feminine, complete with long hair and makeup. His expression reflects both beauty and sorrow. Surrounded by the unspoken social pressure, mental agony, the constant struggle of sexual identity, Pedro is forced to hide his true self from the world.
In order to present Pedro’s emotions more accurately, Annlin interviewed many LGBT friends. In the past, her impression of them had been very positive, “They seemed to be more proud, hopeful and optimistic than most.”
“However, when I started to delve into our conversation and tried to put their emotions into words, I began to see a side I never knew existed. Only then did I realized their humor and optimism was just a protective façade. Underneath all this armor, they were fragile and delicate.”
The unexpected tears struck a chord in Annlin, she suddenly understood that their state in life was much like the lyrics in the song, “He’s lost his bag/Where’s the last place you saw it, Pedro” – When a person has metaphorically lost his or her voice, the only option is to package him or herself in another way…something that will always be a heavy burden upon the soul.
Genderqueer, a challenge to the dancer’s performance
And for Annlin, the only art form powerful enough to express the troubled soul was modern dance.
Similar to “Lead Me To You”, Annlin’s production incorporates the choreography with animations to complement and compete with each other. “Dancers and actors are different, whereas actors are focused on exaggerated facial expressions, dancers are focused on body language”. The silent yet powerful form of expression is exactly the type of “frugal” art form that Annlin seeks.
During the month of preparation, the production team received ten audition clips almost immediately. Responding with equal zeal, the team was able to lock in on dancers with the skills and personal charismatic style for the role through various meetings and conversations.
At first, Annlin had chosen a professional dance teacher. Much to her surprise, the teacher rejected the offer after careful consideration, concerned that the piece may be too controversial and will shadow his teaching career.
As the scrip rolls out, Pedro was designed to be cast as a male dancer who could at the same time express, and be, the inner feminine Pedro. The choreography explores the realm of genderqueer and gender identity through gentle caress and the implicit animations that symbolize the female body.
“The role is quite versatile, it can be gentle, it can be strong, but it cannot be overly masculine.” The extent of which the controversy and conflict are portrayed is a difficult decision, but the real challenge is not just how the emotions are conveyed, but having the public scrutinize the final performance and question the reason behind such performance.
On the spectrum of gender, genderqueer people simply fluctuate between the boundaries society has set to separate the male and the female. However, these labels are the result of an unimaginative and conservative society that not only deem labels as necessary, but also declare absolute and binary standards. Male or female. Normal or queer. Middle grounds are not accepted as a valid existence and considered out of bounds.
Moreover, it’s not just enough to be within the boundaries. Those that stand on the boundaries, but do not openly declare their stance, are considered out of bounds and unacceptable, too. People like the dance teacher who cannot and will not denounce such boundaries, has no choice but to keep their distance.
The final cast for Pedro, was Alistair Wroe, a dancer of just 22 years old. Wroe demonstrated the precise balance between masculine and feminism with his tall, well built figure and subtle but distinctive gentleness. “My intent was not to convey power like a weightlifter and heavy weights, but a dancer that moves like the wind, — with control.”
“Oh No Pedro” was choreographed jointly by Wroe and Annlin, incorporating both Wroe’s free style, and movements that tell the story of Annlin’s script, such as caressing his face with the palm, or using his fingertips to feel his way downwards till the sexual genitals symbolized with animated bushes. Annlin communicated the requirements for the dance while describing the concepts to Wroe: Pain cannot intertwine with pleasure, your true emotions cannot be seen through your mockery, in the animate, there will be flowers blooming from your skull, remember to shade them with your hands …..
Wroe was not offended by the explicit sexuality and dance moves in the script, but instead was able to quickly interpret the theme fully. The shooting only took one day.
Perhaps because of his young age, Wroe had a pure mind and a direct, natural way of expression. Annlin was very impressed with how well Wroe correlated with the role, “His movements were very relaxed and reserved, and even though he had never been trained as an actor, he had no trouble conveying the message”.
Besides his talent and personal charisma, Wroe’s ability to interpret the role on such a high level also has to do with his personal experience in life. For Wroe, many of the emotions and nuances were more of an understanding rather than an imitation.
Annlin said that Wroe had mentioned the struggles he faced during his upbringing. “ Wroe was (and is) a beautiful boy, loved by many people around him. However, it also brought him to great extent self –denial and conflict. He felt that he could not let down people around him when they have such affection for him’”. Like Pedro, Wroe had walked the difficult path to find his self identity.
“The struggle ended in high school when he found an understanding and respectful boyfriend. He is happy.”
Yet not all stories have a perfect ending. Till this day, Wroe cannot come out of the closet to his family. “He said (Wroe), he can completely understand how Pedro feels, but he is not as brave as Pedro.”
Identity and internal conflict are not the only underlying theme in “Oh No Pedro”. Like many of Annlin’s past productions, she explores how reality (dancers and real sets) and abstract (animations) can be combined and balanced.
As an animator, how each scene is portrayed is a little different from other productions. “In general, animations are more flexible and easily interchangeable. There are very little restraints what and how items are drawn. During the filming though, one must consider the angle, position of the camera. For me it is also an exciting journey to discover to what extent different forms of media can be combined.”
The most auspicious of these explorations would be the dancer’s outfit.
The pink costume in the video was designed by Cai-Jun Huang – his signature geometric folds also seem to adhere to Annlin’s taste in style. Just like how Tom put his trust in Annlin, Cai-Jun was given full discretion of the design after Annlin picked the color and material, a sure sign of appreciation and trust between the artists.
The pink color of the outfit symbolizes Pedro’s feminine side. Annlin also points out that if the viewer pays attention, he or she will find that the entire clip is based on blue and pink colors as a way to explore the dynamics of color and gender.
“Have you ever noticed that stereotypically, we dress baby boys in blue and baby girls in pink? That’s why even though Pedro has an male appearance, he is dressed in the color of pink that fits his gender identity. When he is in front of the blue mirror, his reflection is the feminine, pink him.”
On the other hand, the half opaque material is Annlin’s further interpretation of identification, as when the dancer moves, his skin “is visible, but at the same time, invisible.”
When the 190 cm tall dancer finally puts on the carefully designed outfit, the short top exposes his stomach. “It makes him seem clumsy and clownish, a physical representation and expression of Pedro’s feelings.”
A Personal Battle
After one month of editing, the MV was finally released live. Annlin received feedback from a crowd of her friends. “Many told me although they had different experiences from Pedro, the loneliness expressed was real and solidified through the piece. “
Annlin realized, that through the production, she herself had also gone through a journey to search for her identity. Identity is so much more than just gender, or the fear of being isolated. It is a common feeling and experience all humans come to experience, regardless of gender.
“We fear loneliness and things we cannot define, but love conquers all.” This is not just the love we receive and give to other people, but also the love and acceptance we must give ourselves.
“It doesn’t matter if the society is not ready to accept everyone’s true self, or if those around you judge you for who you are. Ultimately, this is a battle between you and yourself. When you cannot accept yourself, will you see everyone around you as an enemy and feel the non-existent whispers behind your back.” Just like the shadow of the audiences in the clip, they are, at the end of the day, merely shadows.
“I am also exploring my own heart. When I can accept and identify with my own creation, whether or not the public accepts the piece is no longer that important.” After all, “ When you truly embrace your most fragile self, you will be free. ”
Photo Credit：趙安玲 提供