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Nothing ever quite makes sense in this beautiful if bonkers fantasy from China. The mix of hand-drawn and digital animation really is gorgeous, almost as good as Studio Ghibli, but watching it feels a bit like spying on someone else’s dream. The story meanders and rambles, taking us on trippy flights of fancy with a baffling disregard for plot or logic.
The setting is a parallel world beneath our oceans where mystical beings called the Others control the balance of nature on Earth. Teenager Chun can make plants grow with a click of her fingers; her grandfather, a hipster-ish God-like dude with flowing white hair and eyebrows, runs the show. When Chun is sent to Earth – in the form of a red dolphin, inexplicably – she falls in love with a boy who drowns rescuing her from a fishing net.
Back home with the Others, Chun trades half her life with the one-eyed Keeper of Souls to bring the human boy back to life. Only now he is a two-inch long whale that she must nurture to adulthood. The movie only gets stranger from here. Imagine The Little Mermaid crossed with Spirited Away and rocket-fuelled with bong water and you’re halfway there. In interviews, the movie’s young directors, Liang Xuan and Zhang Chun, have said they borrowed heavily from ancient Chinese fables and proverbs.
For me there is too much weirdness here, not enough wonder. Delicious supporting characters come and go – the best is a rat-like hag whose swarm of rodents are apparently the souls of sinning humans. But while the movie’s kaleidoscope of striking images and distinctive characters is spellbinding, it lacks psychological depth. And the question of what the hell is going on is never far from your mind.
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: Big Fish & Begonia review – China’s bizarre answer to Studio Ghibli | Animation in film