Heartless: The Story of the Tinman (2010) – By Cary Conley

Just as Wicked gives us the back story between Glenda the Good Witch and the Wicked Witch of the West, this wonderful, quirky, bittersweet 22-minute film short gives us the back story of the Tinman.

There once was a handsome but poor woodsman who loved a maiden with all his heart.  Because he was so poor, he had nothing to offer the maiden except his prowess with an axe, so he promised they would marry as soon as he built her a house.  However, the maiden’s mother wanted a man of higher class to marry her daughter so she conspired with a wicked witch to curse the woodsman’s axe.  After a certain number of swings of the axe, instead of hitting the tree, the axe would hit the woodsman.  Each time the magic number was reached, the axe ruined another part of the woodsman’s body.  And each time he was injured, the woodsman would drag himself to a talented and kindly metalworker who eventually replaced the woodsman’s flesh and blood body with tin.  But the woodsman continued to chop trees so he could complete the house he had promised to the maiden.  Unfortunately, the axe finally hit the woodsman’s chest.  While the tinsmith was able to fashion a torso for the woodsman, he was not talented enough to create a heart, so the woodsman was left without one.

Without a heart, the now totally metallic woodsman became an automaton.  He forgot about the house and the maiden and with a single-minded ferocity he simply chopped down trees.  But one day the rain came, rusting the Tinman and stopping him in his tracks.  Of course, we know how the rest of the story goes…

This is a wonderful little film, very professionally made by Brandon McCormick, the director and co-writer of the film.  McCormick is a very talented guy and has created a film to be quite proud of.  The film starts as a sweet love story before a creepy scene between the maiden’s mother and the wicked witch in the forest, finally reaching a sad ending as the now heartless Tinman ignores his true love and continues to chop down trees even in the rain, eventually rusting and being left alone for many years.  There is a short but hopeful denouement as we see the feet of a scarecrow and ruby slippers, led by a small dog, as they move down a yellow brick road towards the forest where the Tinman stands immobilized.

I particularly enjoyed the costumes, especially that of the tinsmith who reminded me of a kindly but slightly mad scientist as well as the re-imagining of what the Tinman himself might look like, sort of an 18-century industrial revolution look, complete with smokestacks belching black smoke.

The cinematography was stunning, as was the use of light as it streamed through the trees of the forest and the windows of the tinsmith’s place.  But if I may single out one particular aspect of the film for higher praise than the others, it was the haunting and beautiful score and the way it was utilized to evoke certain emotions from the viewer.  The score itself is fantastic and the way it is used in the film to stir various emotions is masterful.  You can download the score for free from the Whitestone Motion Pictures website at http://www.whitestonemotionpictures.com/newSite/wordpress/films2-2/heartless.

McCormick proves he is a creative force to be reckoned with and I look forward to seeing more of his work in the future.  Do yourself a favor and go to http://vimeo.com/11431902 to watch this delightful film, for while it is entitled "Heartless," the film itself has plenty of heart.