Monday, March 23, 2009

Skazka skazok (1979)

Widely regarded as the one of the very best animated film ever made, Skazka skazok is a stunning, semi-autobiographical story of a young boy whose life is damaged by the onset of World War II.

Constructed in an elliptical, non-linear fashion, it contains many of the themes and images that have become synonymous with its creator, the brilliant Russian artist and filmmaker Yuri Norstein. His style is unique and instantly recognisable, using stunning depth effects, sepia toning and dense, often claustrophobic imagery to quite stunning effect. Like so many of his films, Skazka skazok draws heavily on traditional Russian folk stories and art, featuring animals as leading characters and depicting a way of pre-Soviet Russian life that made his work unpopular with the pre-perestroika administration in the Kremlin. Skazka skazok is steeped in nostalgia for a way of life that has long since been eroded by oppression and corruption.

Norstein has claimed that only those who truly understand the psychology of young children can successfully make films aimed at that audience. And it is perhaps his insistence upon listening to the views of his own children before making a film that has leant Skazka skazok its childlike qualities. Simply by changing his style of animation or by subtly altering the tone and mood of the music, Norstein is able to switch effortlessly between the idyllic existence of the story's young hero (whose childhood echoes Norstein's own) and the horrors of the war that ultimately robs him of his innocence.

Yuri Norstein is one of the very few filmmakers who appreciates the full potential of animation as a medium in its own right and not as one which exists simply to mimic the live action cinema. His films (other works include Lisa i zayats / The Fox and the Hare (1973), Tsaplya i zhuravl / The Heron and the Crane (1974) and the intensely moving Yozhik v tumane / Hedgehog in the Fog (1975), which is actually preferable even to this masterpiece) are a stunning blend of fantasy, myth, realism and memories from his childhood that combine to create something that would be impossible to produce in live action.

Skazka skazok perhaps deserves its exalted place as one of - if not perhaps the - most impressive animated film ever made. It's clearly a labour of love from an artist who truly believes in what he's doing, one who has hailed animation as new form of art, one that continues to be misunderstood and badly used. As an example of how animation can be used, effectively, to create mood, atmosphere and emotion, Skazka skazok is one of the very best achievements in its field.

Download links: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 english subtitle

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