(a film review by Mark R. Leeper)

CAPSULE: Written, directed, and animated by Signe Baumane, ROCKS IN MY POCKETS tells the story of her grandmother and aunts who have a history of mental illness and multiple incidents of suicide. She looks at how five intelligent and attractive women struggled with their internal demons. Bauman illustrates the story entirely in animation. The images lighten an atmosphere that desperately needs lightening. Baumane has assembled a remarkably detailed family history that most people in her position would prefer to forget. Rating: low +2 (-4 to +4) or 7/10

ROCKS IN MY POCKETS is subtitled "a funny film about depression." That is certainly true, but it is also a depressing film about depression. The film consists of Latvian-born artist Signe Baumane telling the tragic story of her family in Latvia concentrating on mental illness, full-madness, suicide, and nightmarish mental hospitals, mostly in Latvia under the Soviets. Baumane wrote, directed, and animated the film. The film is entirely in animation which helps to lighten the tone. Characters show up that appear to be part human and part rabbit, demonstrating things like the proper and effective way to tie a noose or to avoid leaving a mess of human waste released when hanging oneself. The use of rabbit images may well tie into some gruesome asides in the story when she tells how people had to kill rabbits.

But the main emphasis is to tell the story of the family and the grandmother who had a terrible and tragic life and who might just have intentionally ended that life. The grandmother, Anna, was attractive and intelligent. She falls in love with her charismatic employer, Indoless, a man much older than she is. They begin a relationship that shatters Indoless's marriage. Anna ends up married to Indoless, working herself to death climbing a hill each day to transport forty buckets of water needed for their livestock. Things go from bad to worse, and Anna has to kill all her feelings. Anna's story, the most complete of the film, has some historic scope, a feel for the stresses of 20th century Latvia, telling what her life was like under the Latvian government, then under the Nazis, and finally under the Soviets. Under each her situation and emotional state get worse. There is a strain of potent feminism. It is unknown if Anna's death was a suicide or not. Without a stop we plow on to the next generation and tales of bleak luck and illness, all recounted with ornate detail and odd asides. The women are all weighted down with the six stones of the title, ready to hold her down in water and drown her: dread, pain, obsession, confusion, guilt, and self-destruction.

This all would be hard to bear without the imaginative animation that covers the entire story. Baumane uses a combination of papier-mâché for the background of her images and sometimes for imperious people, and combines it with flat animation. This gives it a feeling of some depth but still the characters are drawings. The images she creates are often dreamlike, surreal, and frequently stream of conscious. The animation serves to hold the viewer's eye on the screen much as the narrative, told rapid-fire in a Latvian accent, holds onto the viewer's ear.

If the film offers any ray of hope in the so bleak world of this film it is references to the speaker now living in New York, having escaped the desolate world of Latvia for a second chance in the New World. And the very film indicates that Baumane has found in animated cinema a creative receptacle for all her dark moods of hopelessness. I rate ROCKS IN My POCKETS a low +2 on the -4 to +4 scale or 7/10.

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					Mark R. Leeper
					Copyright 2014 Mark R. Leeper