What is that little man with a big nose doing, walking in the forest after dark with a heavy load on his shoulders?
He would appear to be unaware of his destiny, simply driven forward by an invisible force we may call life.
It’s dark and windy in here.
He seems serene and untouched by his eerie surroundings.
Who is he? A rich man? No. He’s dressed simply in a pale orange cloth and carries his bundle tied to a wooden stick.
Where is he going? What is he looking for?
Money, maybe, like most people? A chance to make it? Luck?
Suddenly, out of nowhere, a harpsichord riff announces, as in a commercial advertisement, the appearance of a large figure. Stylized curls of thin blue smoke erupt from his giant cigar. The towering, grinning figure stares down at our care-free wanderer and raises his arm, holding an offer: a satchel filled with money, as indicated by the clear dollar $ign painted across the bag.
The Billionaire mutters an offer.
Our wanderer declines it.
The rich man disappears in shock from being rebuked, fragmenting away in a white and purple post-cubist special effect. The load on the wanderer’s shoulders magically become smaller.
The journey continues down that dark forest. Now it’s a Temptress’ turn to offer the joys of passion and sex to our little man, clad in that simple orange cloth. He smiles and declines the again the offer, as the woman vanishes in a rage. And the load gets even lighter.
The path is still there to be walked. The sun comes out, revealing a plethora of joyful colors in the meadows alla round. Things are getting better and better already.
But now, out of the green grass, an imposing and authoritative king appears, red crown, mink coat and all. He offers the wanderer a blue crown muttering some pompous and official sounding formula in an indecipherable gobbledygook. But the walker is just as uninterested as with the previous offers and the harpsichord jingle whisks our king away, as the load on the wanderer’s back gets even smaller. Now the trees are gone as he walks in the open fields, which are more and more colorful, when suddenly pitch-black darkness descends upon him.
A creaky, darkly clad Death creeps up in front of him, blocking his path and wielding the fatal Sickle, thumping it three times in the echoing ground of this sudden night. The wanderer looks more closely at him and then, as in the previous three occasions, declines the offer.
Death is outraged. But can’t help it, as it vanishes just like the other illusions.
The sun is back and the load on the walker’s shoulders now entirely disappears. There’s no more need for a stick either so the walker simply throws it away, slips his hands in his pockets and continues on his merry journey, as we fade to black.
He is free. He has resisted falling for the illusions of desire and attachment, loss and need. He has even refused the illusion of death, remaining unperturbed in his journey.
The lesson is so simple and clear, while so deep and transcendent, that it does not need more words. It is there to be received in the clarity of its meaning.
Yet to create such neatness in the form, requires a wide amount of knowledge, taste and talent that went into the making of this visualtale.
It seems clear where the historical points of reference come from, looking at the history of animation. Clearly Osvaldo Cavandoli’s “La Linea”’s enigmatic posture is just one of the many points of reference. As in “La Linea,” “Hoblio” also is the story of a character who walks a virtually infinite line, speaking a similarly incomprehensible language, which in this case is made mostly of grunts and guttural, inquisitive sighs. The harpsichord is reminiscent of the opening credit of the Pagot Brothers Film company Disegni Animati Italiani, and our “Hoblio” character even has, at times, the happy go lucky stride of “La Pimpa.”
There’s no spoken word in this tale. It is not necessary: only sounds of a slow Chinese march or harmonious dance, creating a musical carpet by on which our wanderer steps into merrily, thanks to Jiang Li’s “Yangtze” soundtrack.
The atmosphere created around this short film of animation is so gentle and yet so central to the storytelling, that understanding this is useful in order to grasp one more lesson of “Hoblio”: mind your surroundings, and yet be unfazed by them as well, while nurturing that inner contentedness, that omnipresent, infinte, eternal “Joy” referred to in the opening quotation.
A few words must be spent on the stroke of Piero Tonin’s brush, capable of creating with a curve of the pencil a historical, social and economic commentary, cloaked in humour and style. Notice the grin of the millionaire, the flüte-like calves of the sultry sex bomb, the hunched back of a king burdened by the weight of power and the angular dryness of Death, in its tweaking, skeletal rigidity.
Shapes tell a story. If you know how to draw them.
This is what makes “Hoblio” so dense of meaning and hypnotic and makes you go back to it, once in a while, just to remind yourself of the right path to serenity, away from the Maya of wealth, sex, power and death.
To achieve such simplicity and depth requires a lot of hard work.
In this case, it’s been well worth it.
click here to watch video of “Hoblio” on YouTube: