Hedgehog in the Fog (Norshteyn, 1975)
So this week I decided to introduce my children to foreign language shorts with small amounts of subtitles. My daughter (nearly 7) is a fast reader, and my son (9) is a competent reader, but needs a kick up the bum sometimes, as most boys do. He loves film, ergo, reading subtitles might help. Anyway, it was a good excuse to try them with this 10 minute little marvel.
The story of a hedgehog, uh, in the fog (it’s nearly as obvious a title as this blog’s) is charmingly directed and animated by Yuriy Norshteyn. The hedgehog is on his way to meet bear, where they will eat raspberry jam and look at the stars. The innocence is palpable, so when the dog descends and hedgehog becomes lost, the terror is heightened. He sees dogs, owls, and horses, and they all seem far more unnerving than might otherwise be the case. Leaves falling are a horror.
The hedgehog at one point becomes resigned to his fate. He allows the river to take him where it will, unconcerned with his wellbeing. When he finally gets to bear, bear is frantic, talking extremely fast (the subtitles are similarly fast, proving a little problematic for the slower reader) but even not catching all his words, the intention and impact of his manner is not lessened.
Hedgehog in the Fog is only 11 minutes long, but crams a world of imagery into its slight running time. The layer collage animation style could be crude, but is charming. And the way it presents the world is transfixing. Hope, loss, humour, wonder, friendship, terror, resignation, relief. All these are present here and, for a short film to get across so much is a wonder to behold. For the young reader, this is an essential childhood film. Too early, and the child will be bored because they have to have the subtitles narrated.