Imagine the scene: across the inky black of space, a starship shaped not unlike a chicken, only more streamlined, approaches a distant planet and prepares its monitors to take a closer look. As the world's moon passes out of the way, a better view is achieved to reveal a society not unlike Earth's except that instead of people there are beans populating the surface, having built cities, cultivated the land, and created a place to live for all beankind...
Except there appears to be trouble brewing as every so often these images of the bean planet reveal an accident, which somehow graduates to a riot that must be dispersed with a water cannon - or soda siphon as it is otherwise known back here. Everything we see in this Hungarian short (just over ten minutes in length) aside from the chicken spaceship is a repurposed object from everyday Earth, even that moon was simply a breakfast croissant.
That's part of the joke, that this advanced civilisation traverses the galactic void and discovers things are pretty much the same all over, though the emphasis in this work of Ottó Foky (direction) and Joszef Nepp (script) was on the ways events can take a turn for the grim. We laugh when we see a bean crash its "car" (actually a sardine can) and leak green blood, but if we saw that happen where we live with the same detail we would not likely be quite as struck by mirth.
Then there's the unfortunate bean who, while atop a skyscraper for his job, suddenly loses his footing (do beans have feet?) and tumbles to the ground below with a bloodcurdling scream. Or the robbery that sees one of the criminals shot dead gorily for its pains, as the cops (beans with beer bottle tops on their heads) show up to make arrests. Though don't go thinking it was all grim, as there was a roll in the hay and a scene where a bean dotes over a baby bean in its pram (a teaspoon) pushed by its mother, though it does make the baby cry with this attention.
Yet as this was a Hungarian short, while you admire the craftsmanship and the obvious pride the nation took in its animation industry, you do wonder about that riot. It features beans rampaging down the city street until those cops wash them away with their water cannon, not the sort of behaviour the bean authorities tolerate, but also not what you imagine the Communist authorities tolerated either. Was this a risky satirical dig at the powers that be, or a resigned acknowledgement that protest is, shall we say, frowned upon. The finale, where the space chicken is sent packing, was perhaps the most cynical element: no "Welcome, Space Brothers" banner here, merely a blunt and explosive demand to clear off. For all its superb ingenuity, Scenes with Beans was as icy and indeed unforgiving as deep space. Music by Zsolt Petho.
[Click here to watch on MUBI.]