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By David Finkelstein | November 14, 2011

“Twist of Fate,” a nine minute animated film by Karen Aqua, uses largely abstract means to explore the fears associated with life-threatening illness. Using both cell animated color pencil drawings, and a large variety of animated objects such as pills and plastic tubing, Aqua looks at illness on a cellular scale: danger lurking inside of rounded globules of color, and strips of DNA being pulled out of hands.

In many ways, “Twist of Fate” works on similar ideas to Lewis Klahr’s “Antigenic Drift,” and her crudely animated objects also reminded me of Klahr’s animation style, although her color pencil drawing technique gives this film a quite distinctive look. One might call this genre “The Terror of Medical Imagery,” which can be appreciated by anyone who has ever been scared out of their minds by an MRI scan or an IV monitor. Aqua is also a more literal-minded artist than Klahr, and the viewer is likely to know, most of the time, what is being referred to in the film, whether it is bolts of energy which represent radiation cancer therapy, or cells which are being selectively attacked by a virus.

Aqua is an enormously gifted artist and animator, and her compositions constantly thrill, with their sweeping, expanding, and swirling sense of musicality, drama, and composition. Her visual inventiveness is coupled with an emotional intelligence and sensitivity about our fear of illness. Ken Field’s musical sound score adds perfectly to the film’s sense of menace. “Twist of Fate” is a beautifully realized film about a kind of fear which many of us have experienced, but which can be hard to visualize or talk about.

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