Saturday, February 26, 2011

The Illusionist

Sylvain Chomet's The Illusionist, as described by my fellow animator and colleague, Connell Garvey, was "beautiful and heartbreaking":

Rather than squee about the obvious superiority of animation or wax philosophical about the enchanting and melancholy story, I'd like to examine an interesting and rather bold choice for the film's U.S. screenings.

Although The Illusionist had much more dialogue than Chomet's previous films, The Triplets of Belleville and The Old Lady and the Pigeons, the theatrical release had no subtitles. Though I speak neither French nor Celtic, the lack of subtitles did not diminish my appreciation for the film but, rather, enhanced it. I assume this was intentional. As the two main characters of the film do not share a language, subtitles would have been inappropriate. The lack of translation gave the audience an additional layer of empathy for the characters because we, too, could understand very little of the words being said. We had to rely on non-verbal communication, just as the protagonists did. Their rich and subtle body language made this not only possible, but a pleasure to watch.

Simmon Keith Barney is an animator living in Fort Collins, Colorado.

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