spirit, shadow

"Books are mirrors: you only see in them what you already have inside you. " 

-Carlos Ruiz Zafón (The Shadow of the Wind)


i recently read "the shadow of the wind" which is a beautiful novel originally written in spanish and takes place in 1950's barcelona. the story is set against the backdrop of fading youth in franco's spain. it is about falling in and out of both books and love, and the strange relationship between the two.

shortly after reading "the shadow of the wind" i came across a movie called "the spirit of the beehive," which similarly happens to be set in the period following the spanish civil war but ten years earlier, in 1940. the film revolves around the coming of age of young ana who becomes enamored with the figure of frankenstein after the film travels to her small town. the film is a very sweet, melancholy look at the way in which a young girl tries to understand the world around her. it is also beautifully realized and has a sort of dreamy, moody quality.

what i particularly enjoyed about both "the shadow of the wind" and "the spirit of the beehive" is that they are small intimate portraits of children struggling to make sense of growing up. and they are set in a  period where a large epic struggle happens to be playing out in the background. while the war does not necessarily affect their everyday lives, it casts a long shadow that nonetheless shapes them in ways they do not quite understand. both stories come across as incredibly sensitive and capture the simultaneous feelings of love and loss.



photos by me, film stills from the spirit of the beehive rent it here in nz

fantastic cutouts




aside from the whimsical humorous nature of "fantastic mr. fox", what i enjoyed most was the unique visual style of the film. it's unlike any other recent animated feature in that it has a truly handcrafted quality. you get the sense that the puppets and sets were really made by artists, giving the story an overall intimate quality, like you are watching this special world unfold whilst secretly spying into someone's dollhouse where the toys have magically come alive.

the staging of the film is also quite different. often it feels like an actual stage or a diorama. the way in which the characters move is a throwback to older styles of stop motion animation, at once fluid and emotive yet very organic, particularly in comparison to the sleek aesthetic of many cg animated films.

in this way i found myself thinking about how "fantastic mr. fox" reminded me a bit of the paper cutout films of lotte reinger. "fantastic mr. fox" is of course differently realized with its very elaborate sets, but the quality of motion, the silhouettes of characters and beautiful precious hand crafted quality feels similar.


images taken from FMF trailer and LR's film clips