Boy and The World / O Menino E O Mundo (2013)
Dir: Alê Abreu
Of the five ‘Animated Feature’ contenders this year, this abstract Brazilian animation is possibly the most distinctive.
When a young boy’s father goes away from their rural home to find work in the city, he pursues him, discovering the big industrial world.
This is another one of the award nominated animated films this year with hardly any talking, even when the few (I counted maybe four) exchanges of dialogue occur in the film they aren’t vital to convey the story, you can get the sense without the need for translation. It even puts any writing upside down or back-to-front to show that the words are of no real importance and not there to be read.
The film looks so unique, with a style that largely resembles a child’s drawings. The animation doesn’t always fill the frame with full backgrounds and detail, at times there’s just one object surrounded by white space. Sometimes this is used to good effect to show that the focus is on one specific thing which is all we see for a time, gradually introducing other elements on screen. The whole style of the film is very imaginative and abstract, artistically representing how a child might draw and see the world. This style adapts throughout for changing settings and tone. At times using what look like magazine cut outs instead of hand-drawings, especially for billboards and writing. There’s even a brief section of live action footage where it turns from the animated depiction into the real thing.
The story is one of surprising depth. There are themes of industrialism, even the effect of machines replacing workers and how economic migration changes culture and the family. Music plays an important role in the story, with it often depicted visually as little coloured dots that when amassed take the form of birds in the sky. It’s poignantly touching at times and the ending particularly so, presenting a twist of sorts that makes you rethink what you’ve just seen in a different light.
I watched it with a 4-year-old who was absolutely captivated, though she did waver between following it (telling me what was going on) and wondering what was happening. That’s the downside of such an abstract style, it looks beautiful but may take a little figuring out. It’s not the best of the animations this year and not one I’m desperate to watch again soon, however it’s a deep and insightful look at bigger issues than you might expect from an animated film, exploring them in a unique style that deserves praise for its originality and charming beauty.