Tuesday, June 9, 2009

STRINGS (2004)
--- fantasy/animation

Dir: Anders Rønnow Klarlund

When it comes to fantasy epics put on film, they are few and far between. That’s because it is too costly, time consuming, and difficult for the filmmakers to idealize a fantasy world that is so far from reality that it’s hard to imagine.

Director Anders Rønnow Klarlund’s fantasy film, “Strings”, accomplishes this feat of epic storytelling. It captures the fantastical settings of films like Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy or the recent “Chronicles of Narnia” adaptation. The only difference here is every character in this film is a marionette. Furthermore, the characters know it. But unlike Gerry Anderson’s Thunderbirds or Team America, we see something here that is the true work of a gifted puppeteer, in a single frame we get emotion from a block of wood, and the expressions of the marionettes are not switched around or anything. It’s the magical collaboration of the cinematographer, the director, the voice actor, and the musician’s score. The art of the puppeteer dates back as early as the 16th Century and in many cultures of the world, but I don’t believe it’s ever been filmed successfully - until, perhaps, this movie.

“Strings” is said to be inspired by America’s decision to go to war with Iraq. Klarlund’s mythic fantasy tells the tale of Prince Hal Tara, heir to the throne of Hebalon, who’s King has just killed himself. No one in the kingdom however knows this. The King’s wicked brother, Nezo and his spidery henchman, Ghrak, concoct a machination that convinces the prince and princess, Jhinna, was murdered by the kingdoms sworn enemies the Zeriths. Once the prince is notified, all preparations are set for a vengeance quest, but the uncle, has already planned for him to never return and for himself to be ruler of Hebalon. But Hal’s journey leads him to some shocking discoveries about his father and his kingdom, and he ends up finding true love in the most unexpected of places.

The film is a beautiful masterpiece for what it really is; a bunch of puppets. Reminiscent of Jim Henson's "The Dark Crystal", it is also aesthetically charming, and profound of the portrayal of its universe. The marionettes live in a world where they are aware of their strings. They live in harmony with them. They even have a “life string”, that if cut they will die. The other thing is the puppets are given even more character, by how their strings look or how what kind of wood they’re made of. For instance the prince and princess appear to be gilded in gold and porcelain, and later we see the swamp-dwelling Zerith’s are made of driftwood. “Strings” stunning cinematography is gorgeous and all throughout the film never falters in this regard, be it capturing a snowbound mountain or a vast rainy night. This is a can’t miss film for animation and fantasy fans alike.