THE ART OF IMMERSION
BY MERISSA VICTOR
Directed by Terence Nance, An Oversimplification of Her Beauty (2012) is an intimate look at Nance’s romantic pursuits. In an attempt to understand why his current relationship with Namik is failing, Nance begins to obsessively reflect and dissect his multiple failed relationships in the past. These intense moments of reflection are told through a series of animated sequences as well as two voice-of-god narrators (one of which is Nance himself).
I was initially drawn to this film because of its beautifully mesmerising animation sequences. Ranging from 2D animation to claymation and fully monochrome sequences (Figure 1) to ones with such vibrant colour palettes (Figure 2)— every woman Nance reflects on, has their own animation style. The only unifying elements in these sequences are the omnipresent narrators and an animated version of Nance.
From the candid voice-of-god narration, it is made clear that Nance’s relationships have failed because of his inability to communicate and self-destructive nature. Through his shortsighted view on relationships, Nance is often unable to look beyond himself. He has oversimplified their beauty.
The poignancy of the animated sequences in Nance’s film lies in the fact that Nance’s animated form constantly changes. In these constructed worlds, Nance adopts the animated style of his female counterpart and moulds himself into her environment. As he reflects on these relationships posthumously, Nance is constantly challenging himself to rethink his understandings of these relationships. Thus, unlike his past and in this constructed world, each woman is depicted as a unique piece of art. One that is granted her due weight and significance.
On a practical level, these animated sequences are used to depict the nuances of the inner-workings of Nance’s mind — in a way that may not have been achieved as effectively if done through live-action reenactments. Despite his role as the protagonist of the film and his own life, Nance assumes a secondary role to his female counterparts. Constantly adopting new forms and figures, Nance is never his own person. Instead, he is now clearly marked as a mere visitor in the worlds of these women.
Figure 1: Nance reflects on his relationship with Najja, in a monochromatic animated sequence.
Figure 2: In a different animation style, Nance reflects on his relationship with Joy.