This movie looks different, feels different, sounds different. Actually, I’d heard it was a silent film, and that’s not quite true. There’s a smattering of dialogue, unsubtitled, but that didn’t bother me. The images and the score are so evocative they’ve already buried under your skin, and you know what’s going on even if you can’t decipher the words. I probably shouldn’t admit this next bit, but upon looking it up, I see that the language is actually just a made up one – backwards Portuguese, apparently – so that may reassure you while making me look stupid. Incidentally, I don’t speak Portuguese forwards either.
Long story short, the film’s about a young boy searching for his father who has gone to the city in search of work, but the combination of sweet and simple imagery coupled with jaunty music and depth of imagination makes for a pretty powerful message. We see the world through the eyes of a child, and it’s as fanciful as you’d think, but it’s also reflective. I think the larger statement being made is a cautionary tale. At one point the boy seems to have found his father, only to find many identical men exiting an office building. Has his father become a clone? Has the city stolen his soul? Is there simply no difference between men who don’t make things with their own hands?I’m not sure of the exact sentiment the Brazilian film makers were hoping to convey, but that’s kind of the beauty of the thing. In its quiet, it allows the viewer to be making judgments for herself, and my reading of it was obviously pretty damning.
This film actually made its debut right here at the Ottawa International Animation Festival where it received special honours “Because it was full of some of the most beautiful images we’ve ever seen” and I think that’s putting it mildly. It’s some of the most innovative work I’ve seen in a while, despite the fact that the main character is basically a stick man, truly thrilling to watch and absorb. There we go, that’s what I’ve been getting to this whole time: it’s a movie that you don’t just watch. You experience it. The visuals feel quite personal and they take you back to your own childhood while thrilling you and keeping you guessing. All the drawings were hand-made by the Director, Alê Abreu, and I just love how he makes this very basic character come to life against a geometric, swirling, abstract background. It’s moving. This is an image-heavy post, and I think you can tell it’s for good reason. Yes, I could talk about this all day but honestly, this is one you’ll have to see for yourself, if only you feel up to risking the nontraditional style.