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BOY AND THE WORLD (O Menino e o Mundo) (Brazil 2013) ***1/2
Directed by Alê Abreu
Review by Gilbert Seah
As in last year’s SHAUN THE SHEEP MOVIE, BOY AND THE WORLD is a wordless animated feature though gibberish Portuguese can be heard occasionally in the film’s soundtrack. Thus, this Brazilian import, has a more universal appeal, as it can be understood by people in countries speaking different languages.
The story is also a universal one. Being wordless, one must concentrate a bit more to put together the film’s narrative. The story concerns the boy of the film’s title, one who journeys to the big city, to see what is both fascinating and frightening. All this is captured by the film’s colourful visuals.
The film begins with the boy (animated as a stick figure with huge round Charlie Brown head with black slit eyes and no mouth) looking at a coloured rock. The patterns turn out to be inside other patterns as the camera weaves in and put different colours and patterns. All this is very mesmerizing and captivating. The boy then jumps onto a cloud and after jumps into the waters of a stream and runs into the woods.
The story involves the boy leaving for the city (that looks like Rio de Janeiro) in search of his father. He has various adventures including getting a dog, meeting mechanized workers (looking like THE WALL) and facing police oppression. The film also has abstract moments like the symbolic fight between good and evil as seen by the fight between a black bird and colourful phoenix.
The film contains beautiful moments such as the one emphasizing the importance of family, in which the boy eats bread with a melon dip with his mother and father. But the film has an overall bleak look as director Abreu lays his views on world pollution of lumber and oil, as well as the slow destruction of natural resources.
The visuals are amazing – simple and colourful being the two words best used to describe it – just like the kaleidoscope toy the boy looks and plays with. The segment of the tankers carrying colourful containers, all rectangular in shape filling the screen makes one of the more memorable moments. But just as amazing as the visuals is the film’s soundtrack that is made up of instruments like the flute, and Brazilian music like the samba and hip-hop.
The film has the feel of METROPOLIS and is at times, just as intense. To Abreu’s credit, the film is without dialogue and thus has to be more cinematic. Though the film is animated and about a boy, children might find the film difficult to understand. But the film has a total Brazilian feel about it – from the characters to the background.
BOY AND THE WORLD is welcome, very original adult animation so different from what other studios like Disney, Ghibli and Aardman provide. The film is unique and has won over 40 film festival awards so far.
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