Parents love to say to their kids, “don’t play with your food.” Jason Wishnow played with his food, recorded it, and the result of his efforts is an eight minute short that was an official selection at the 2004 Sundance Film Festival. Wishnow’s stop-motion animation film “Oedipus” is an ingenious interpretation of the Oedipus myth. Instead of employing human actors, though, Wishnow casts vegetables.
The film begins with Oedipus (a potato), looking more like a Buddhist monk than a shepherd, walking up a hill with his sheep (which are portrayed by small chunks of cauliflower). The King of Thebes (a stalk of broccoli), who’s actually Oedipus’s father, runs into Oedipus atop this hill. The potato and the broccoli get into a hilarious and brilliantly conceived fight. Oedipus emerges as victor, proving to the King of Thebes that a cleaver is no match for two potato peelers.
“Oedipus” follows the rest of the Greek myth. An act of incest occurs between son and mother (a tomato); Oedipus learns the truth about his parents, pokes his “eyes” out, and instructs his young daughter Antigone (also a tomato) not to look upon his haggard face. But, Oedipus doesn’t have a face. In fact, none of the vegetables have faces.
The olives, the garlic, the oranges, the tomatoes, and broccoli are all anthropomorphized via movement, voice-over-actors, and costuming rather than through human facial features. For Wishnow’s purposes in retelling the myth of Oedipus, the vegetables don’t need faces. Their body language is sufficient in expressing their thoughts and emotions. With the help from costume designer Sara Kozlowski, art director John Millhauser, and model makers Christopher Rabilwongse and Brent Heyning, Wishnow has proven that one should definitely play with one’s food. Of course the director didn’t just go rummaging through the produce section of a supermarket or refuse to eat his veggies, but creativity and artistic inspiration have to start somewhere.