The Lost Thing
Shaun Tan’s short length Oscor nominated animation, The Lost Thing, is a bit like a jolt to the heart at 3am after remembering some precious moment. It’s the story of a boy that finds a lost thing on a beach, plays with it all afternoon, and when the beach closes, realizes that the something he has found is a lost something, because no one comes to collect it. The boy doesn’t understand how something so lovely could be lost, but more puzzling to him, is where this beautiful thing comes from.
The thing is a mixture of mechanic and organic matter, combined in soft green arms, moving parts and lights. It is a representation of nature and machine working in harmonization. The surroundings of the ‘city’, where the feature is set, are cold. Balls are popped on the beach at closing time, the lines are hard and drawn, and backgrounds appear clinical; perfect depictions of a modern world that is more fascinated by productivity and a warped sense of progression than anything from the natural world.
The elements from the natural world that exist in Tan’s feature though are portrayed as being almost magical. The protagonist is fascinated by the lost thing, and goes on a journey to find it a safe place, or a place where it belongs. As the journey progresses from his family home, to garage, to the city, it is clear that the world is not as tolerant of lost, different things as what he is. Tan creates a perfectly constructed world – although a completely ugly one – which is not so very different from our own, and he portrays it and the people in it almost unforgivably. The simplicity in both the narration and visuals is a beautiful, unforgettable tale.