Celebrated Stop Motion Short Film Inspired by Defoe’s A Journal of the Plague Year
The Periwig Maker is a short film directed by Steffen Schäffler that represents plague-ridden London in the 1700s. Produced by Ideal Standard film and released in 1999, it went on to be nominated for an Oscar in the Best Animated Short Film category.
The 15-minute film chronicles the experiences of a wigmaker as he chooses to isolate himself from the diseased public spaces of his city by boarding himself at home. Through his window, he witnesses the death of his neighbour and the plight of her daughter as she is forcefully quarantined in their home in the days leading to her own demise. The wigmaker is then visited by the spirit of the young, bright red-haired girl, which prompts him to leave his home in search of her body. The film finishes with the man wearing a crimson red wig that he has fashioned from the stolen hair of the young girl’s still-warm corpse.
Schäffler short film is openly inspired by Daniel Defoe’s Journal of a Plague Year, and contributes a haunting gothic visual to the scenes described in the 18th century novel. Similarly to Defoe’s character of H.F., The Periwig Maker is singularly focused on the protagonist’s reflections on the plague. As narrators, they equally challenged by how best to protect themselves from the disease and question the reason for God condemnation.
The Periwig Maker is an excellent representation of a modern interpretation of Defoe’s historical novel and its success demonstrates how contagion narratives continue to be impactful to our reality.