cherzo Transfiguro
Version française
by John Kerkhoven

©Photo by Maryse Latulippe

John Kerkhoven

Writer, editor, and document designer living in Montreal
Working on a book of stories
Plays blues harmonica

The National Film Board of Canada
 Directed by
Georges Schwizgebel
2006, 4 minutes, Canada

George Schwizgebel’s "Jeu" is a dynamic playful animation of 400 paintings slipstreamed into three conjoined scenes: a recreational park, an art gallery, and a concert hall where the musicians play the film’s driving theme, a scherzo by Prokofiev. Each of the three scenes is made up of elements transforming and re-transforming in time to the music, and each scene further evolves into the next. "Jeu" is serious play.

As the animation begins, we hear the orchestra tune up  while the numbers counting down the start of the film turn on the spot, each in turn turning into the next. The image multiplies into a field of changing numbers. And there is a pause.

The music starts with a flurry. The title breaks apart to form the blocks of a child’s game. The blocks become pointillistic points, yellow and orange on a blue background. Yellow balls roll across the scene. The background becomes water with orange fish and a yellow ball floating on the surface.

Shadows of eight athletic men play on the water. The men toss balls to each other around a pond. The pond becomes a kite. The men’s clothes change colour, blue, pale blue, red and white.

The men are now numerous among the trees which transmute: pine into cypress, cypress into palm. Anew, a pond becomes a kite, which, in the far background, transforms into a building. In the foreground a man runs in front of the ponds which appear, one after the other, each surrounded by men tossing balls, each becoming a kite before the next pond appears.

We move backwards through a window and find ourselves inside a room which changes its shape in a swift ballet of walls, of plants, of steps, of a blue and yellow and red block. Everything is in movement; a white ball rolls; outside the men play.


This interior scene, including the view outside, flattens and becomes a canvas on a wall, a painting abstract and geometrical. This painting then becomes one of a guitar, and as quickly, it is a green and brown canvas half covered by long broad strokes of rose, burnt orange and yellow.



The painting slides to the ground, it grows, it is a rug. The whole exhibition space is in movement: walls, floor, canvases, visitors, and a couple seen from behind.

The gallery scene becomes itself a painting which passes from hands-to-hands in a concert hall where the audience goes through its own sorts of transformations – he becomes she, she becomes he, everybody changes place even though everyone remains seated.

A man stands playing a French horn, all of a sudden a woman in a blue dress appears standing with her arms crossed, and – voilà –  we see the musicians on the stage, violinists, a flutist, an oboe player. With each beat there is a new change: she, he, he, she, violins, flutist, trombone player, a man playing the cello.

In this symphonic choreography, the conductor becomes a pianist, and everything takes part in the game, musicians, instruments, the crowd in the hall, until this scherzo by Prokofiev comes to its final crescendo, and everything stops.

We return quickly, backwards, via the concert, the animated paintings, the interior, the outdoor sports, all the way to the start of the film, except that it is the end

the end of this majestic whirlwind in which orange fish swim about a yellow ball on the blue water, happy in their play.

Scherzo du Concerto pour Piano no.2 Opus 16 de Serge Prokofiev
Orchestre de la Suisse Romande
Direction : Philippe Béram
Soliste : Louis Schwizgebel-Wang

Thank you to Emmanuelle Demange for suggestions and help with the French version of this piece.

Jeu can be seen on the NFB website

Contact: John Kerkhoven

Note: For many years, Lois Siegel taught at John Abbott College (Montreal).
Once upon a time, John Kerkhoven was one of her English Literature students.

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