The 12 and a half minutes of John Frame’s Three Fragments of a Lost Tale (or as it appears on screen, III Fragments of a Lost Tale) is Part 1 of a longer work to be called The Tale of the Crippled Boy, and it looks like it might serve as a demo or preview to generate interest or investment. Working with a handful of crew and scoring the film himself, Frame is assembling a non-narrative dream-film full of mysterious incidents and images.
It’s difficult to say what’s happening within each image, never mind how the sequences fit together. Grotesque little articulated figures, cobbled from spare parts, thrash about in a stately manner almost as if being tortured. One is a birdlike figure who carries a scythe through tall green grass to a decaying bed being reclaimed by nature, with a broken clock in the headboard. He reaches in vain for a ladder above his head. Another figure is a kind of Frankenstein monster with bunny ears who instructs a sort of sock monkey. They belong to a large cast of half-organic machines. There’s a clear influence of Jan Svankmajer and the Brothers Quay in the quaintness and near-horrific queasiness of everything, but Frame’s work is even more abstract (if possible). It’s a wordless world scored in lush, haunting tones, and perhaps its influences go back beyond David Lynch to Hieronymous Bosch.
“It’s not about anything but it carries its own meaning,” says Frame in Happy Medium, an extra on this DVD. “The only way to understand that meaning is by looking and letting go of thinking.” He speaks from what looks like an extremely nifty house in a forest, cluttered with the junk of his artist’s trade, and he projects a philosophical, meticulous air that befits his vision.