Wild Life or Une vie sauvage, is an Academy Award-nominated animated short (13 1/2 minutes) directed by Wendy Tilby and Amanda Forbis.
It's about an English Remittance Man who moves out to the Canadian frontier in 1909 with the intention of becoming a rancher. He finds himself unsuited to it but disguises this fact in his letters home. Intertitles compare his fate to that of a comet.
You can see it on the NFB's Youtube channel right here.
Contains examples of:
- Break the Cutie: The main character is presented as a well mannered but rather lazy young man whose upbringing and education have in no way prepared him for life on the harsh Alberta prairie. He starts breaking down from the isolation and homesickness and because he doesn’t properly plan for winter, he freezes to death.
- Canadian Western: Much talk about the "Wild West" of the Canadian prairie; the young man even uses the phrase in a letter home. Subverted in that it isn't very wild; the man just kind of sits around for a while in the lonely flatlands until he kills himself.
- City Slicker: A refined young man from the upper classes is sent out to the Canadian prairie, an environment he is wholly unsuited for.
- Comet of Doom: Played with. The intertitles talk about comets and about how they were once regarded as Comets of Doom in superstition. But the symbolism is obvious in that the young man has come swooping in like a comet to a place where he doesn't really belong. And just as a comet melts when it comes too close to the sun, the young man is destroyed. There's a Comet of Doom in the sky as the man walks out to his death in the snow—Halley's Comet in fact, which did zoom by the Earth in 1910.
- Cloud Cuckoolander: His enthusiasm over "the common swamp thistle!" and him addressing a dog as old chum pegs him as one of these.
- Daydream Believer
- Deliberate Values Dissonance: The faux newsreel at the begining of the film.
- Determined Homesteader: Averted. The man doesn't react to the difficulties of making a new life in the Canadian prairie by being determined; instead, he kills himself.
- Distinguished Gentleman's Pipe: The pipe the man smokes marks him as a Fish out of Water in the more hard-bitten Canadian west.
- Downer Ending: The young man commits suicide, walking out into the snow to kill himself.
- Dying Alone: The young man freezes to death all alone out on the prairie.
- Fish out of Water: In the saddest possible sense. The young man doesn't belong on the Canadian prairie and has no idea of how to ranch or, indeed, how to take care of himself at all. No one there likes him. Eventually he kills himself.
- Foreshadowing: The comparisons between the main character and a comet and his neighbor's comment that she's worried about him
- Gentleman Adventurer: What the Englishman would like to be,
- Going Native: “I find myself lapsing into the wild life of those around me.”
- Hidden Depths: Though naïve and rather silly, the main character is clearly interested in natural science and reads “Principles of Astronomy” for fun.
- Idle Rich: The Englishman and all his polo playing chums
- Mockumentary: All the characters talk to the camera as if they were being interviewed,except for the protagonist.
- Mood Whiplash: It starts out as a kind of a spoof making fun of the phenomenon of young Upper-Class Twit s going to Canada to be ranchers but the end of the film is very sad.
- Morton's Fork: In the end, the Englishman can either stay where he is and starve or go out in to the snow and probably die of hypothermia. He does the latter.
- Naïve Newcomer: The young man has no idea whatsoever how to go about running a cattle ranch. He pays with his life.
- No Name Given: We know that the main character has the initials E.T.W., but that's it.
- Rich in Dollars, Poor in Sense: The train station conducters says this almost word for word about the Englishmen who come out to Calgary
- Remittance Man: A phenomenon peculiar to England in the pre-World War I era. In Britain in those days the eldest sons of rich families inherited all the property. Younger sons were left with nothing. In many cases the families sent out these "Remittance Men" as Naive Newcomers out to the colonies—Canada, India, Australia, and elsewhere—with the expectation that they'd make their own way. The phrase "remittance man" refers to the "remittances", or cash transfers, that the upper-crust families would sent to their sons. (This phenomenon came to a sudden end when World War I gave the rich young men of England something to do.)
- School Marm: "They're wonderful dancers, but I certaintly wouldn't want to marry one".
- Snow Means Death: The young man deliberately walks out into the snow to die.
- Surrogate Soliloquy: When the main character can't find someone to listen to him he talks to a dog
- Stiff Upper Lip: The young man never hints in his letters home about how he is clueless at ranching and generally an utter failure, and that he seems to be in danger of starving to death. It's all happy faces in the letters.
- Tragic Dream: Of the third variety, being a rancher would be totally possible for someone who was more pragmatic and industrious and more suited to life on the Alberta prairies.
- Understatement: His last letter home, in which the young man talks about how much he misses his family and even mentions their Sunday dinners, clearly a veiled reference to how he is going hungry.
- Upper-Class Twit: The main character and all the other remittance men.
- Very Loosely Based on a True Story: Aside from the historical phenomenon this film examines, the inspiration came from the directors English ancestors who came out to Alberta to ranch. The photo at the very end of the film is of Amanda Forbis's great uncle.
- The Western: It’s subtitled “A Western” though it's more of a Deconstruction of the genre.