Andrea Dorfman‘s Flawed is a gem of a story. It works on so many levels, but follows the most elemental rule about making something memorable, which is this – keep it simple. From the way she approaches her story you can see that animation allows her a creative freedom that wouldn’t be possible in a more traditional documentary format – and that she’s experimenting with the form itself.
“Experimentation is one of the joys of creating. I am happiest when I don’t know what’s going to happen next. I have always loved this about animation. No matter how vivid I imagine something before I create it, it’s always a surprise when it’s done. Filmmaking is pure magic.”
It is pure magic… all of the elements of Flawed work beautifully together. The story takes you quite a distance – from the recent past, as Andrea describes meeting a plastic surgeon who is reputed to be “the nicest guy in the world”- then back through some of her childhood experiences and finally to the present day. Her storytelling is sparse… she uses just enough words to convey her tale… all of which is driven by a haunting music score. Her images are a series of watercolor drawings – and with the help of perfectly edited time-lapse animation we watch the process of creation unfold before us.
For me, the real pleasure of the piece lies in how her stream-of-consciousness narrative so gracefully interweaves itself through her childlike illustrations. The effect is to invite you into her world and see it through her eyes. It’s a novel way to tell a tale, but as Andrea says:
“I guess at the end of the day, it’s about storytelling. if the story is strong, the audience will connect to it—however it’s told.”
Take a look:
Watch Flawed on PBS. See more from POV.
I love the way she explores the feeling of being flawed – which hooks in so deeply with our sense of who we really are. Am I surprised that from a young age she felt less than? Not really. I think most people have issues with their self-image. Some may not show it and others may obsess loudly about it, but all those self-help, diet and personal improvement books aren’t out there by accident.
More importantly, she first externalized the issue by accusing her plastic surgeon buddy of seeing others as flawed, then she went inward to explore her own story – revealing how she came to see herself as flawed at a very young age. After ruminating around in the past she brings her story back to the present, sharing how she came to turn the concept on its head. Now she’s an individual and her flaw just makes her a more interesting person.
I’d to say a word about how she paces the visuals. As we see her draw and paint each image, she speeds up the action until it locks in with her voice track. Once each watercolor is completed, she holds the frame just long enough for you to absorb it before she replaces it with the next sheet of paper. She illustrates the details of her life and the flaw that colors it piece-by-piece, as each insight is replaced by a new, deeper truth.
Back when I was thirteen, some distant relatives I’d never seen before appeared at my bar mitzvah. One of them came up to me with a big smile and said, “Don’t worry, your face will fill out.” I remember that moment so vividly because up until then I didn’t know that I possessed the same flaw that animated Andrea’s story. After that, every time I looked in the mirror all I saw was a nose with a face attached. It’s those connections with past painful moments that often launch a story.
Which brings me back to Andrea. I like the gentle way her story unfolds, how her voice takes you by the hand and carries you on a journey. Although her story is so personal, it resonates because we can see ourselves in it too. That’s what makes her work so powerful.
Flawed was nominated for an Emmy and one of her films has over 5 million hits on YouTube. In an interview Andrea comments:
“All of my films are strongly rooted in autobiography. If I had to look at my life as a series of really dramatic peaks – moments where, for whatever reason, I felt the most, lived in an extreme way – these are the things I’ve made films about.”
Are we all in some way flawed? What do you think?