Happy Hunting Grounds
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Pieter Baan Muller, Happy Hunting Grounds (1984, 3'15'')
In the literal sense, the title 'Happy Hunting Grounds' refers to the Elysian fields, the playground hereafter reserved for gods and chosen mortals. In classic Westerns you sometimes hear a cowboy say it just before he sends an Indian villain to kingdom come. But in everyday usage, this expression has taken on a much milder meaning, that of a good-luck wish to someone who is going for some goal. Pieter Baan Muller ironically plays with this ambiguity. Inspired by the historical event of the failed assault on President Reagan, he depicts a new kind of hunting scene. The animation begins with a cardboard figure representing the president, and is as sympathetic as a puppet show. Then we see Reagan featu…ing in a TV fragment, and we notice how, 'in the flesh', he is actually just as lifeless with greasepaint and as stiff in his movements. Amidst lasting, cheerful applause, the most powerful man in the world woodenly alights from a limousine and finds his way through the crowds to a platform. Then a man with a gun appears, and the ambience changes from 'happy' to grim. Suddenly the styling is not so pretty any more, and takes on the appearance of torn-off posters announcing demonstrations. The TV images of Reagan have assimilated into the artist's images. The president now finds himself in the artist's world, where the artist, from his self-constructed freedom, dictates what happens.