Kenchiku is about a woman’s journey in search of the perfect place to plant her home, which she carries on her back. She is determined to reach the pinnacle, literally the top of a mountain.
We meet her as she leaves her village, her small house strapped to her back. During the day, she walks, collecting bits of her surroundings. Bark from a rare tree, a dried leaf, maybe a smooth pebble, all might end up in her knapsack as she walks. In the evening, once she’s found a place to rest for the night, she attaches the day’s collection to her house, using a traditional tool set consisting of an old hammer, nails, and little wedges of wood. Along her path, she passes by other ghostly figures travelling with their own houses. Some settle to place their homes in a clearing, others trudge along on different paths. To our traveler, their faces are only wisps, and they keep their distance.
One day, she sees a fellow traveler whose face is as clear as her own. This is different. He isn’t a ghostly wisp like the rest of them, and he too carries a home. They stop and look at each other. She is intrigued. They soon discover that they’re headed in the same direction. Together they walk toward the mountain, and the daily and nightly routine continues. Collect. Build. Collect. Build. He is also collecting bits of nature and adding them to his house. Their homes slowly grow larger and more intricate until, one day, they decide to attach their homes together. Her companion grabs the rope and pulls the attached houses. He does all of the heavy lifting - dragging their home on a sled and pulling the roped home up a cliff edge.
More days and nights go by; they collect and build together. After a while, it begins to seem as if he’s taking the journey alone with her not far behind. Little wisps begin to obscure his features. She comes to realize that they’re going in the wrong direction; her mountain is behind her. She tries to stop her companion but he insists. She insists and reaches for the rope. He smacks her hand away. In a rage, she takes her hammer from her tools, walks to his side of the sled and with a howl, smashes his half of the home. He crumples, devastated. Slowly, sadly, he picks up the splintered pieces and leaves her behind. She stands and watches him go, still filled with steam. Her hammer vibrates with black inky lines. She straps her home on her back, turns toward the mountain, and walks.
The rain arrives. She continues to journey toward the mountain, which is now noticeably closer. Up into the wetness she walks, slipping and stumbling, trying not to think about the hammer and the destruction she caused. She steps on a wet root and her foot slides off and she falls, tumbling into a cavernous hole. As she falls, her house flies from her back and smashes into the ground. Before her, her hammer is vibrating. All she can do is curl up, in tears.
Time goes by. She can’t bring herself to do much of anything in the darkness of the cave. We see there are other figures in the cave - some curled up, crying, some hunched over with expressions of anger. They are stone. She sees them, too. She can’t be like them, so she wraps the remnants of her house in leaves and vines and makes her way out the cave.
Walking once again, her journey feels hopeless. It’s hard to see the mountain from where she is, deep in the forest. Her crumbling house, held together by vines, rattles with every step.
As she’s scooting across a log over a swollen river, her home teeters, slips off her back and into the river. She dives in after it. Whooshing down the river they go until her head bobs and goes under. House and traveller rip out of sight and tumble through growing rapids.
Blackness. A muted sound of rushing water remains, churning away, but eventually that fades, too.
She awakens to a ghostly female figure huddled over her home. She sees her hammer next to her body so she grabs it and raises it up. It’s vibrating like crazy, transformed into a mess of black inky lines. The figure raises her hands and slowly places a broken piece of the traveler’s home into its original place. The woman is trying to fix it, to glue it back together. Our traveller turns her head and sees another home that must belong to the figure. It had once been shattered too, but it’s been repaired with golden glue. (In Japanese culture, pottery that’s been glued together and shows the golden seams is meant to represent beauty).
Our traveller relaxes and the hammer falls to her side. It stops vibrating. She realizes how frail she is and slumps to the ground.
The traveler rests. Eventually she stands up again and begins helping the figure repair her home. The wisps flutter away from the figure and features begin to take shape: eyes, mouth, nose. The unveiled woman smiles deeply.
The traveler begins to forget her goal until one day, sitting peacefully, she looks up to the mountain top looming over. She must continue.
Leaving her new friend behind, she straps her home to her back, finds the path, and begins walking. The journey is difficult, but she has renewed motivation. Her house no longer rattles as the golden glue shimmers in the sunlight.
Up she goes. Finally, she trudges through snow as she nears the top. Each step takes an eternity.
And then, she’s at the top. Above the clouds, the sun beams down and the sky seems more vibrant than ever. She sits her house down and takes out her tools. She hammers the base of her house into the rock.
Out of the silence of the mountain, she begins to hear whispers… She looks up to see other figures with homes. There’s something different about these figures, though. Unlike the wispy or stone figures from below, these ones are vibrating, made from inky lines trembling spastically. She steps back. They rush at her with a collective shriek.
One grabs her and pulls her hair, another leaps on her home, cracking its roof. She grabs her hammer and smacks one of them in the face. They scatter, whimpering like cowardly dogs.
She runs to her house to stand guard. She roars at them as they scurry back. Time passes. Slowly, the inky lines begin to consume her.
Everyday, a figure attempts to approach and she fends it off, the lines creep further. She watches the figures, they all roar at each other to stay back. She roars too. Soon, darkness takes over… but in the darkness, the golden glow shimmers… She opens her eyes. The golden glow of the cracks in her inky home shine through.
She drops the hammer and tries to wipe the ink from her home. There’s a massive struggle until she removes the nails from its base and finally frees the home.
The inky figures watch her. She picks up her home. She takes one last look at the top of the mountain. The figures watch. She leaves.
Her friend cooks a meal in the valley. She looks up. She smiles.
There will be no dialogue as it is very much more of an ambient piece leaving room for the audience to contemplate. If there is dialogue, it will be a made up language and even between characters. The characters won’t be able to communicate with each other. This plays into the moment of their relationship and how unable to communicate causes issues. The film’s setting will be hugely influenced by asian culture. Asian culture has recently become a large influence on me as I never learned or grew up around it even though I am asian.
This film will be animated using VR tools which has never been done before. It’s a combination of techniques I’ve learned with my past animated films and the ever developing technology of VR. I will be using the Oculus Rift and using 3D models to animate like puppets within VR.
This test animation is not the final look of the film but provides a tone for the final feature.
FINAL ART STYLE:
This is the final look of the film. Many tests renders have been done to get to this stage.