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Film / Neighbours

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Neighbours is a 1952 short film by Norman McLaren, produced by the National Film Board of Canada.

It is an anti-war parable. The 9-minute short opens with two men in a grass field. They are dressed almost identically, each smoking pipes and reading newspapers, each relaxing in lawn chairs, two crude cardboard houses sitting behind them. They seem to be getting along fine—until a single flower pops up on the ground at the exact midpoint between the two men. Each smells the flower. Each really really enjoys smelling the flower. Each, in turn, starts getting more possessive about the flower. Eventually they break out in violent conflict.

Received an Oscar for Best Documentary, Short Subject, which was pretty weird, because the film isn't a documentary.

Compare A Chairy Tale, another Maclaren short that uses a similar pixilation technique.

Not to be confused with Australian soap opera Neighbours, or any of the various American films which have been called Neighbors without the U.


  • An Aesop: "Love your neighbour" is repeated in several different languages onscreen at the end of the film.
  • Allegory: Obviously meant to be symbolic of the futility of war.
  • Apple of Discord: Two former friends fight to the death over a goddamn flower.
  • Cerebus Syndrome: The neighbors start out as friends, but things get heated as they fight civilly over the flower, and by the end they're attacking each other and their families brutally.
  • Creator's Favorite: Years after making this short, Norman would state that if all of his films were destroyed and he could only save one, he would choose this one as he felt the message was important for the world.
  • Death of a Child: The short starts to get truly disturbing right at the point where each of the men murders the other's wife and baby.
  • Escalating War: It starts with the men crowding each other as they jostle to smell the flower. It ends with violence and destruction and six dead.
  • Property Line: Once it becomes apparent that the flower is located equidistant between the two men, they start getting very interested in where the property line is. Each manages to draw the property line to put the flower on his side.
  • Referenced by...: The 1992 song, "Rest in Peace", by Extreme pays homage to this short.
  • Silence Is Golden: No dialogue.
  • Stop Motion: Straddles the line between live-action and animation. For this film McLaren used the "pixilation" technique in which live action actors are shot with a stop-motion camera to provide a surreal animated effect.
  • Word of God: The NFB refers to the two men as Mr. East and Mr. West.