Drawing from 'Sobriety, Obesity and Growing Old' signed and dated 91 (lower left) charcoal and pastel on paper 65 x 93 cm. (25 5/8 x 36 5/8 in.)
Sobriety, Obesity and Growing Old (1991) is the fourth in a series of six films portraying the characters Soho Eckstein and Felix Teitlebaum. Set against the backdrop of post-Apartheid South Africa, Soho, representing the power and greed of white South African Society, is the polar opposite to the artist's alter-ego, Felix. While the themes of social and political unrest and evolution run throughout all six films, Sobriety, Obesity and Growing Old focuses largely on the tension between the two men and Felix's romantic involvement with Soho's estranged wife.
Kentridge animated his films by continually altering and erasing the individual drawings, as opposed to the standard stop-action animation practice of creating thousands of cels to complete the film. The resultant effect is an expressionistic visual narrative that Kentridge describes as follows:
'A film of the drawing holds each moment. And of course, often, as a drawing proceeds, interest shifts from what was originally central, to something that initially appeared incidental. Filming enables me to follow this process of vision and revision as it happens. This erasing of charcoal, an imperfect activity, always leaves a grey smudge on the paper. So filming not only records the changes in the drawing but reveals too the history of those changes, as each erasure leaves a snail-trail of what has been.' (quoted in the exhibition catalogue, William Kentridge, Castello di Rivoli Museo d'Arte, Rivoli-Torino, 2004, p. 89)