Style of The Quay Brothers
The Quay Brothers have a very unique, and very strange, style of stop motion animation. They use parts of old dolls in their puppets, making them look quite deformed and bizarre, and sometimes use organic material. They also include a particular art style sometimes within some of their works such as Picasso and Arcimboldo. Their films usually share a dark, eerie, and creepy theme, which the puppets share and help display along with sets and props. All of these qualities are what make the Quay brothers so unique. They even attracted the attention of Christopher Nolan.
The most notable thing in all of the Quay Brothers works is the material of their stop motion puppets. They all have at least one puppet that is made out of old doll parts, most notably, the head which usually has the back of the head cut off. Sometimes the head would wear a hat, wig, or both over the hole. Their disfigured and sometimes decayed look makes them feel as though they are some sorts of Frankenstein’s monster. The best example of this are the servants of the museum (that’s what I’m calling it) with there long arms and bodies, with soulless white eyes. Another example is in the short film, “The Comb,” the there is a dirt porcelain doll whose hands seem to fly away whenever it sleeps. The student from the short film “The Cabinet of Jan Švankmajer,” also followed this design. They also use some organic material, the most notable use is in their most famous short film, “Streets of Crocodiles,” made in 1989, where a pocket watched was flipped around and opened up to reveal what look like guts, not a pretty sight. Another example of use of organic materials that is more pleasant is the feathers of the birdman from their 1985 short film, “The Epic of Gilgamesh.” In the same film there is also what looks like a cricket without its exoskeleton, much which was as equally disturbing as the watch organs. Another disturbing use of organic materials was in “Leos Janacek,” where there was a bat figure with what looked like an actual bat skull. All of this goes all along with the dark themes that are present in their films.
Some of the quay brothers’ films have sets, props, and figures that have a certain art style applied to them. In their short film, “The Epic of Gilgamesh,” what appears to be some kind of clown has a Picasso like design to him with both eyes on one side of his face. This was most likely used to portray how warped the clowns mind has become. Another example is in their short film “The Cabinet of Jan Švankmajer,” a professorial puppet has a design similar to the works of Italian artist, Giuseppe Arcimboldo, whose works are also shown through out the film, both in the background and in a box that displayed three of Arcimboldo’s works at three different angles. The puppet appeared to be mechanical with tiny pincers for hands and his body and hair being made of books. The use of this style was probably used to show the variety a mind can have. In the short film “Leos Janacek,” the puppets featured many art styles; a two dimensional design, a woman with literally half a face, and monstrous, insect like creatures. Use of these styles was to help portray the story and the theme that lies with it.
Nearly all of the Quay Brothers films have a dark theme to them. These themes are most displayed with a dark atmosphere, eerie music, and the Frankenstein doll puppets that they use. There most famed film, “Streets of Crocodiles,” was based on a book of the same name that was a metaphor of the author’s childhood, which seems like it was not very good with how the film was portrayed. This childhood was symbolized through a wind-up, mechanical monkey encased in glass. Certain moments in the film “Leos Janacek” were dark at times, especially at the end where there is dreary opera music with strange animals feasting on something, most likely a corpse, and at the very end where a funeral was taking place. There was also a moment where a man was walking through and is then carried through the air and then dropped. The different moments in this film were to help portray what Leos Janacek, the musician whose music is present in the film and whom the short film is about, was trying to portray with his music. The short film, “The Epic of Gilgamesh,” had a dark theme which was present with the many traps in the clowns room, which are mainly used to catch giant, tumbling dandelions that he eats, which remains in a dark void with no escape, and when he clipped the revived birdman’s wings and began to use him in place of the cricket in the table trap. The theme is most likely to be how confinement and isolation can lead to insanity. All of these themes are portrayed very well trough the puppets, animation, and sets.
Their style and technique has influenced many film makers today, one of which being “The Predator.” Their style has also drew the attention of the director of the recent Batman movies, Christopher Nolan, who is wrote an article about them and an interview he had with them in The New York Times and curated a collection of their best works and directed a film about them. They held some dark themes in most of their films, Streets of Crocodiles being the most notable. Their puppets, props and sets held some aspect of famous art styles like Picaso. The most disturbing of their work is the use of actual organic material and doll parts in some of their puppets. There is a high possibility that other film makers will be influenced by the work of the Quay Brothers.