This is not the first time that anthropomorphized animals are used to show the glories and miseries of our society. The technique is as old as humanity and is tied close to a little mouse that became the icon for a major animation film company (and for the 20th century in general) or even further, with the earliest fairy tales.
In the traditionally crafted animated film Ernest & Célestine, it is shown through two main characters, a little mouse and a big bear, outsiders of their respective societies, living in parallel worlds on the surface and in the underground.
Célestine is a little orphan mouse that grew up in her own world full of paintings and not as afraid as her peers when told tales of the frightening story about the Big Bad Bear. She found a way to make a living stealing teeth in the bear’s world which rodent dentists use as implants.
Ernest is a solitary bear, an artist and a street musician who refuses to be a lawyer like his father was and instead, is starving, seeking food to feed his belly. He is an old acquaintance for the village’s policebears, as an outlaw.
Coincidences cause their lives to intersect on a cold winter day when Célestine is trapped in a bin and Ernest finds her and as is established in the foundations of their society, wants to eat her. However, the stubborn Célestine changes his mind. Instead, they cooperate to satisfy their hunger. This provides the basis for a strong friendship later on.
By questioning the foundations of their societies in acts of self-expression, they become prosecutable by the established rules and in parallel situations, their worlds question their attitudes.
This is an emotional animated feature, entertaining and thought-provoking both for children and adults, who would find different levels of interpretation – from the power of societies’ established rules to shape our behavior on a daily basis to the benefits of a good oral hygiene and the power of friendship.
The film is based on a series of books under the same title, created by the Belgian author and illustrator Gabrielle Vincent in the 1980s. The transfer of the book to the big screen was the duty of animation and short film directors Stéphane Aubier, Vincent Patar and Benjamin Renner. It was a co-production of Les Armateurs, StudioCanal, Maybe Movies, France 3 Cinéma, La Parti Production and Melusine Productions, with the economic support of the European MEDIA program; the movie was released in France in December 2012.
Among other accolades, it won the César Award for Best Animated Feature in 2013 (award from the French Académie des Arts et Techniques du Cinema), a special mention for the Director’s Fortnight prize in Cannes Film Festival 2012, recognitions in BFI London Film Festival 2012 and Seville European Film Festival 2012, the Muhr Award & People’s Choice Award at Dubai International Film Festival also in 2012 and the Cinekid Film Award International Film in 2011.
This review was part of the coverage of Kamloops Film Festival for the independent student newspaper The Omega, while I was a Journalism exchange student at Thompson Rivers University (TRU) in 2013. You can see this experience on my Spanish blog #fromkamloops. Read the full coverage of the 17th edition of Kamloops Film Festival on The Omega’s website or the print version on Pinterest.