Adagio In Gray

Adagio is legendary animator Garri Bardin‘s 10-minute stop motion masterpiece in origami, set to Remo Giazotto’s Adagio in G minor. The events of this stark fable about ignorant intolerance among shadowy bird-creatures unfold [huhh huhh!] against a minimal backdrop in a variety of expert shots. The famous string score [used in the 1962 adaptation of Kafka‘s The Trial, and 1998 film Show Me Love just to name a couple] imparts a melancholy tension throughout.

The camera work is astounding, as is the vast range of expressions Bardin is able to assign these pieces of gray paper. He’s something of authority on bringing everyday objects to life, his famous earlier works being Conflict, where a war erupts among matches and Banquet, in which an entire dinner party plays out without people. Though most of Gari Bardin’s repertoire consists of embittered social commentary, Adagio stands apart in its sheer elegance. Enjoy, below.

Adagio is loosely based on one of my favorite short stories, Maxim Gorki’s legend of Danko and his burning heart. A part translation, part summary by E.J. Dillon, under the cut.

Many thousands of years ago in a land of the sunrise beyond the sea, among a despised people who had been driven by a hostile race to the forests from the fertile steppe, lived the hero of this story, Danko. From the swamps and marshes of this dense virgin forest rose mephitic vapors which decimated the persecuted clan. These miserable fugitives, finding no outlet from their living sepulcher, finally decided in despair to seek out their foes and give themselves up to slavery or death.

At the critical moment the handsome young Danko comes forward and, like David among the Hebrews, boldly offers to save his people from the ruin with which they are threatened, to lead them onward to light and life. “Arise, let us enter in the forest depths, pushing on to the other side, for on earth all things have an end.” So mighty was the force of his will, so ardent the fire that burned in his breast, that the multitude rose up and followed him. But their ardor and hope were soon damped by the difficulty of forcing a way through the sunless forest tangle. They soon lost courage and loud were their murmurs against the enterprising leader. Like wild beasts they gathered round him and were on the point of putting him to death for his rash, unmediated interference. Thereat his heart burned with rage at their black ingratitude, but pity for the people quenched the fire. He loved those people and thought within himself that perhaps without him they would perish. And so his heart flamed forth with a blazing fire of desire to save them and to lead them along a smooth path, and his eyes forthwith glistened with the rays of that consuming flame. And all at once he tore open his breast with his hands, plucked out his heart and raised it aloft over his head.

It burned brightly like the sun, brighter than the sun, and all the forest was hushed thereat; illumined by this torch of love for men, darkness fled from its light far into the denseness of the wood and shuddering fell into a quagmire. The people, curious and spellbound, followed him once more, and very soon they saw before them a broad steppe suffused with the brilliant light of the sun reflected by the sparkling river. Softly whispered the wondering trees – now left behind – and the grass, moistened by Danko’s blood, answered them back. The proud dying hero, Danko, glanced at the breadth of the steppe outspread before him, surveyed joyfully the free earth, and proudly smiled. Then he fell and died.

[Found here. I love Google Books so much.]

18 Responses to “Adagio In Gray”

  1. Jerem Morrow Says:

    Wonderful. Reminds me of this:, in tone.

  2. Fifa Says:

    This is great, and also very, very, very reminiscent of Jan Svankmejer. Do we know who influenced whom or does it even matter?

  3. josey Says:

    Thanks for sharing this great video… I think I’ll post it on my origami website as it’s somewhat relevant. Also thanks for the link about Giazotto… I’ve always attributed this piece to Albinoni… but if wikipedia is to be trusted, I’ve now learned it’s actually entirely Giazotto’s work. Very cool

  4. Jami Says:

    This is amazing. Thank you so much for sharing this.

  5. Ruby Says:

    that was, balletic. i dont think ive ever been quite so moved by unprinted pieces of paper.

  6. Mer Says:

    Oh, my… this is absolutely gorgeous. Thank you, Z.

    So, hey, am I a huge nerd for being reminded of the procession of the Mystics from The Dark Crystal?

    (Yes. Yes I am.)

  7. Chris L Says:

    Thank you, Zoe! I hadn’t read your synopsis before watching the vid, and so I found myself thinking “Hmm, an Origami Christ story”– and then, of course, the ending happened. I haven’t watched Conflict or Banquet yet, but I am about to. (And Tell Tale Heart, too.) Embittered social commentary is right up my alley…

    Here’s another good one: Balance.

  8. sascha Says:

    Fantastically haunting.
    Svankmajer was more whimsical and literal, not as theatrical as this piece.
    Beautiful work, thank you for sharing!

  9. Fifa Says:

    Sascha, I agree that this particular piece is very different from Svankmajer’s works, but if you watch Banquet, you can’t deny that there’s definitely a dialogue between it and Svankmajer’s food-animations.

    Either way, it’s all good. Garri Bardin is great. :Ð

  10. Zoetica Says:

    Jerem, wow! I’d never seen that before, thank you. What in Adagio reminded you of it?

    Fifa, I can definitely see some parallels in Banquet – Svankmeyer made the Food trilogy in ’92, and Bardin’s Banquet was made in ’86.

    Josey, my pleasure. You should try making one of these bird fellows!

    Jami, you’re most welcome!

    Ruby, agreed. I would love to see Gareth Pugh outfit a ballet production of this.

    Mer, I’d forgotten about that scene completely! You’re so right. A clear sign I need to re-watch The Dark Crystal, asap.

    Chris, I initially thought of Christ as well, actually. I think because Adagio carries some universal moral themes, much like the Bible. Watching Balance now – wonderful, thank you!

    Sascha, thank you!

  11. Chris L Says:

    (Balance is rad, innit?)

    What surprised me most about “Telltale Heart” was that it was made by UPA. These are the same guys who made Gerald McBoing-Boing, and really refined and popularized the limited/modernist/abstracted style of animation design. It’s amazing, the kind of experimental stuff that used to get made at big studios…

  12. josey Says:


    Good connection to the mystics in the Dark Crystal… love that movie. My fiance and I were reminded of march of the penguins.

  13. Adagio - Stop Motion Animation « Eject Now Says:

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  14. Jerem Morrow Says:

    Zo: Watching Adagio, something kept nagging at the back of my head. Like a name on the tip of my tongue, it began to irk me. Then it hit, so I went and watched that version of TTTH. LArd knows what the connection is, my head made between the two. But I couldn’t stop thinking of one, without the other. Pacing?

  15. Vivacious G Says:

    I do enjoy wordless communication and expression. Nice post, thanks, Coilhouse.

    Enjoyed The Tell Tale Heart as well – thanks to Jerem.

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  17. Paul Komoda Says:

    That was truly extraordinary!
    It still fascinates me that at the root of what emotionally affects us in regards to visual storytelling are basic metaphorical symbols.
    In Adagio, Bardin uses these minimalist images, combined with the music to create a profoundly moving work.
    I saw Conflict many years ago in an animation class I took while attending SVA, and it left an indelible impression. The final images were so wrenchingly tragic that I never looked at matches quite the same way again.
    Thanks for posting this, Z!

    On a side note, I think the UPA Tell Tale Heart is deserving of it’s own post. It certainly falls into the “What Made Me Weird” category, at least from my perspective. That absolutely terrified me as a child!

  18. Jerem Morrow Says:

    @VG: *nod*

    @PK: Doesn’t it though? I recall my first reading, in 4th grade, I think. I was absolutely captivated. Felt half sick, half exuberant. Needless to say, that particular teacher was a fave for years to come.