Guys, dolls are creepy. They have unblinking, soulless eyes. They seem like they could come alive at any moment and murder everyone with their tiny hands, their uncanny plastic features morphing from a facade of innocence to PURE EVIL.
So an entire village populated mainly by life-size dolls is not an un-terrifying proposition. In fact, it really very much sounds like the premise for a horror movie. "They came for the calm. They stayed for the KILLER DOLLS."
Taking the creepy factor up a notch, the dolls are meant to represent the dead and absent, like scarecrows of mourning. Oh, and they're in Japan, the country that came up with water ghosts.
But the town of Nagoro, Japan—inhabited by over 350 dolls, and just 37 people—is less horrifying than heartbreaking. The dolls are the handiwork of Ayano Tsukimi, an elderly resident who has watched most of the town die or move away. Even her husband and daughter live in another place. Tsukimi expresses her loneliness and brings her memories to life by creating each doll to resemble a now-gone human counterpart.
Director Fritz Schumann captures the melancholy sentiment behind the village-sized doll diorama, turning what could easily be dismissed as an oddity into a thoughtful meditation on an artist's strange protest against impermanence.
It's a beautiful little film, and this is coming from someone who locked her sisters' clown doll in the basement to avoid it coming alive and killing us in our sleep. [Short of the Week]