Let’s say, hypothetically, you love dogs, independent films, and Fauvist artists like Henri Matisse. Have I got a movie for you! It might help if you also like your joy tinged with the bittersweet. “Life has taught me happiness is just a break from the pain”, says the pup narrator from the title of new animated feature Marona’s Fantastic Tale, and she should know.
Romanian director Anca Damian and screenwriter Anghel Damian, in partnership with Belgian artist Brecht Evens, have created a whimsical, moving animated feature that is truly artistry in motion. Whether it is something children should see, depends on their maturity and sensitivity, since the story starts with the central character, a mixed-breed pup alternately named Nine, Ana, Sara, and finally Marona, being hit by a car. She contemplates her life as she lays dying in the middle of a busy highway. This dog (voiced by Lizzie Brocheré), who has ears that look like wings, takes the audience through her life, and her experiences with the humans she lives with, alternately warming and breaking your heart with her embrace of momentary joys, and her often unanswered searches for love.
There is such joy in the work of Evens in Marona’s Fantastic Tale, which strikes as a mix of the style of Fauvists like Matisse and Derain, and the secret illustrations by Theodore Geisel. If you go to the website for Brecht Evens, you’ll find yourself gladly slipping down a very colorful rabbit hole. Each time Nine gets a change of venue, or rather another chance to lay her loyalty at the feet of another human, the visual palette and designs shift, but there remains a consistency of color, as well as the commitment to using animation to express more than just action.