Throughout his storied career spanning the second half of the 20th century, Jim Henson received dozens of awards for his contributions to children’s film and television. While his unerring work on dolls And sesame street brought him numerous Peabody and Emmy awards. Henson’s only recognition from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences came in 1966 for a short film that was decidedly mature, wildly experimental, and clearly lacking in puppetry.

Four years ago sesame street debuted after Henson’s early work on Sam and friendsHenson wrote, directed, produced and starred in an original short film titled Of the time. The film, which is just under nine minutes long, opens with an unnamed man (played by Henson) lying in a hospital bed next to a clock. The doctor checks the man’s heart rate with a stethoscope, and the beat creates a beat that develops into a percussion song. To the beat of the drums, the film cuts to shots of animated figures before the clock explodes and we are transported to city streets where a person navigates through busy pedestrian crossings at different times and places.

From there, the film follows a man going about other harmless daily activities: working in an office, signing paperwork, and running a factory assembly line. Meanwhile, the rhythm intensifies, and abstract images continue to appear – telephones, typewriters, money and watches. The only break in the rhythm occurs when the man offers a single line of dialogue—a faint, deadpan cry for “help” repeated intermittently at four points throughout the film.

‘Time Piece’ dives into one man’s existential conflict

In this first act alone, Henson sets his theme with synchronized sound and asynchronous editing. The constant, growing echoes of a man’s heartbeat and the ticking of a clock mean the temporality of life in a race against time. Meanwhile, the abrupt transitions between the banal life of a man and unexpected, bizarre imagery (such as disembodied forms, Henson on a pogo stick, or his short dance making his way in an elevator) illustrate a character stuck in a routine, corporate life. an industrial world forced to repress latent creativity.

Jim Henson in the Oscar-nominated short film Time Piece.
Image courtesy of The Jim Henson Company.

This dichotomy continues when the man leaves his place of work and begins a walk in the woods. With each shot, he sheds another layer of his costume until he transforms into a shirtless jungle figure of Tarzan. However, just as he begins to swing on the vine, the film cuts to a suburban area where the man, back in costume, returns home to his wife (Enid Kafritz) for a sumptuous candlelit dinner.

The scene begins conservatively, with the couple delicately eating food. However, as we cross between them, their etiquette becomes more and more barbaric. After all, they eat meat with their hands. We cut to a dog chewing on a bone and the man is shown shirtless again before his suit suddenly reappears and the couple are sitting in a fancy restaurant. Obviously, the male’s cognitive dissonance between a well-groomed society and his wilderness extends to his domestic sphere as well.

The restaurant turns into a jazz club where percussion turns into a cacophony. Advertising signs flash on the screen, as well as dancers and artists on stage. Soon, the women on stage begin to undress as the man watches intently. The film breaks between them and images of bursting champagne, a peeling banana, a naked child and, most notably, dancing skeletons and dead chickens. He combines consumption, intuitiveness and eroticism in a strange but insightful way. Linked to the film’s general message that nature poetry is nurtured over a fragile, finite lifespan, sex is portrayed as a low form of indulgence, and yet when it is commodified in such an environment, it becomes an accepted and encouraged display. It strikes directly at the existential crisis of man.

Henson’s message loses its meaning Of the timefinal act

Of the timeThe third and final act takes surrealism to its zenith as Henson’s character, now dressed as a cowboy, shoots a hole through the Mona Lisa, killing the symbol of high culture that is holding him back. This leads him to a prison where he smashes rocks until the prison explodes and he escapes. In different clothes, a man runs through the desert, past the city, into the mountains and over the grave, and all this time he is pursued by Golgotha. Meanwhile, the choppy footage now includes a man painting an elephant pink, a gorilla on a pogo stick, liquids going down the drain, and even more hours approaching midnight.

Finally, the man reaches a high dive where he jumps off, sprouts wings, and starts flying through the air, only to be fired upon by missiles from all over the world. With another shout of “help”, the sound stops before the rockets crash into the man in the resulting explosion. In the clippings, an arrow hits the bullseye, a blow is struck, and a feather falls from the sky. The clock then strikes midnight, and as the chimes chime, the film repeats the previous shots until a man’s head appears, flushed down the toilet, and we’re back in the hospital room from the beginning.

The man is presumed dead, but when the doctor pulls a sheet over his head, it turns out that Henson is also playing him. He winks at the camera in the last frame, which freezes before the credits. This brings the final confusion to the unusual film. All the while, we assume we’ve been following this one person for a day, or perhaps a lifetime, as they desperately try to avoid certain doom. We think it’s a fruitless attempt, but the final shot refutes the suggestion, suggesting that the man may have made it out after all.

Generally, Of the time this is a wild and wacky journey that balances between symbolism on the nose and total abstraction. While it may not contain puppets and may be too complex for Henson’s possible young audience, the film shows the director’s early mastery of his craft, especially his penchant for minimalism. He innovatively uses both sound and visuals to share a smart story and message in just a few minutes – just like he ended up doing in countless dolls And sesame street sketches.

So it’s only somewhat surprising that Henson’s only Academy nomination is for something so daring and fake. Despite Of the time adult, fans dolls And sesame street be aware that even Henson’s preschool content may contain adult jokes and messages. Similarly, Henson functions such as Dark Crystal, labyrinthor Witchesdemonstrate that he is capable of pushing the boundaries and exploring sinister themes regardless of the target audience. Of the time thus unique, but his wit and quality match perfectly with the peerless work of Jim Henson and the Muppets Inc., and he is well worthy of his accolades.