Not every movie is Disney or Dreamworks when we talk about animation movies on the big screen. Some times, something gets out of the dust trying to gain a little place in the Animation Olympus. Today we'll take a look at "Song of the Sea", a 2014 folkloristic movie directed by Tomm Moore, but we also have a special guest throwing two pennies in, Giulzilla, who loves Moore's productions, and also suggested the movie to me and others.
Let's start by saying that the movie came in Italy just now, and it was released into foreign theaters 2 years ago (2014). The bad thing is that here in Italy it got no spots whatsoever and just 4 people went watching it at the first shooting in Lecce yesterday. Me and Giulzilla were 2 of those people.
This movie is like a fable inside a fable, it starts in fact with a mother telling to her son myths and legends about ancient irish creatures, namely the selkie (a magical woman who has a marvelous singing and capable of transforming into a seal, just like a weird nordic mermaid). Ben's mother is pregnant, and all of a sudden she runs away from her family while Ben's getting fast asleep to "save her baby", Saoirse. Six years pass, Saoirse cannot talk, and Ben hates his sister, because he thinks that she stole his mother. The two children then discover that the stories told by their mother were not surreal, but instead they were part of a world not visible to the human eye, in which the only one able to save them is the selkie. In a race against time, Ben and Saoirse have to recover the dying spirits through the melody of a shell that the boy received as a gift from his mother, and and the singing of the selkie herself. Being a fable, the plot has to be read as it appears: not everything has a complete explanation, and there are many absurd things happening, being archetypes of cartoons in general (for example the capability of Ben of putting out of his pocket a lot of huge things). A huge problem is the complete absence of a real climax, giving that the movie always has the same pacing throughout the whole experience and there are no plot twists and keeps it simple for the sake of being simple in its core. There is also the little issue of characters being too simple (Ben and his father are too idiotic for my tastes) and surreal for all the wrong reasons. Kudos have to be given to its moral, being strong and understandable for an adult from the beginning of the movie.
Graphics and Sound
Technically speaking, Song of the Sea hits everyone thanks to its naturally peculiar graphic style, not unique, but with a lot of details, perfect and necessary to empathize witht the characters for both adults and children. Everything seems handmade, everything seems real even if it is surreal, and it has its own lively, strong and vivid colors. The artistic veil of this movie is strong, and I can't deny of confusing it for a Tim Burton produced movie. Every environment is unique and it captures everyone with its own beauty, both natural and artificial. Accompanying the peculiar graphics there's sound, keeping originals songs and subtitling them, with the special outline of the folkloristic soundtrack, that helps the environments and keeps them alive and vivid.
Giulzilla: Given the moral, what an adult will appreciate is the incredible beauty of the traditional animation, simple and apparently childish, but rich of details, colors, lights and animations as fluid as water. Every scene looks like a painting, every element looks made of paper, sometimes being almost tangible for everybody's eyes, and feelings are given from backgrounds that seem like a patchwork. Honorable mentions for the soundtrack composed by the french Bruno Coulais, in collaboration with the irish group Kìla, in some moments surpassing the beauty of the scene, or giving it more value, showing at the spectator an excellent quality. Music and animations are one of the same, giving the feeling of being built at the same time. The songs which the movie is based on fulfill their duties with suggestive music pieces, composed by sounds that remind those that we hear submerged in water, and the mixed english-ancient irish give an even better feeling of myth and magic that is the same for the whole movie. In regards of this, a big thank you goes to the dubbing editor that had the brilliant idea of keeping the original songs, but subtitling it in italian, aside the fact of giving the italian adaptation a nice dubbing and a fair translation.
Giving that I've never seen a Tomm Moore movie before this, I can say that I appreciated it for what it was, but I cannot say that it has no defects: a lot of things, like the plot itself, looks like it has no sense, once you gain everything vital in it. For this reason, the more fussy ones won't like the movie as much, but the ones that will love it will be children or adults watching it just to enjoy it as a not conventional fable and less pretentious than a lot of others. Song of the Sea is a wonderful movie, with its highs and lows, finding its own strength in music and graphics, having less strength on the plot. It can be appreciated if you watch it without looking for the negative sides.
Giulzilla: This animation movie is true poetry for me, and it has to be taken as it is. You don't have to look for the sense of things, an intrigant and elaborateplot, but it has to be watched for its incredible beauty and the emotions it shows, for how it keeps the human existence marvelous, in life as in death, in happyness and pain. Just like when you read a poem, this movie has to be watched by being just accepting everything as it happens, being drifted by its magic atmosphere and what the plot has to offer. Despite that, I feel like "Sonf of the Sea" is slightly inferior Moore's previous work, "The Secret of Kells" (2009, nominated for the Oscar as well), that rapresents similar characteristics, but less childish, sometimes even brutal, and more intriguing and mystic.