Directed by Arnaldo Galvao | Reviewed by Rohan Bhattacharya
There is hardly anyone who has not heard the story of Hansel and Gretel. The tale of two children lost in a forest, only to find themselves attacked by a witch who means to feed on them; their chronicle is close to our hearts, and often a source of inspiration for those who find themselves lost in life and unable to recover from tragedies that befell on them. Like the two step-siblings, we persevere to overcome evil with the goodness in our hearts. To call this a kid’s story is an understatement; it is far reaching, and carries a universal message. Arnaldo Galvão has understood the importance of it, and has brought about a more modern rendition of Hansel and Gretel, with a premise that deals with today’s socio-political scenario.
The presiding premise of Arnaldo Galvão’s ‘Fabulous Hansel and Gretel’ is brilliantly contextualized within one of its more interesting scenes. The witch who is disguised as a TV anchor temps the siblings to sign a contract, a contract that would subject them to an everlasting servitude, until the kids are plump enough for the witch to feast on them. She says that the contract serves to fulfill the demands of the ‘bureaucracy,’ she explains that:
“Bureaucracy is like a bad video game that you cannot get past the level. No one asks what bureaucracy is for. It is like religion; you just follow it and that is it!”
These lines quite brilliantly help solidify the world displayed by Galvão. A world that works on ideals that mean truly little, and are meant to only subjugate the masses who simply wish to lead a peaceful life. The jargon in the extremely fat stack of agreement papers is never discussed, and the children are forced to make a verbal oath, further denouncing the use the agreement and its practical significance.
Galvão’s animated feature film presents to us a world consumed by capitalism; a world where witches seem to have taken the highest political seats, and are ravaging mother nature, and contributing to the fall of planet Earth as we know it. The scene was something out of the biblical Book of Revelation; the beast had certainly fastened its fangs onto our planet for the worse. Within all this turmoil, the siblings and their family are quite clearly presented as an anomaly. While the society at large is craving to deprive them of any happiness, they persevere to live, and lead a simple life.
Besides the political and supernatural themes perseverant in the script, the audiences are subjected to experience an innocent, yet disturbing interpretation of ‘greed:’ while greed for the children is the desire to become super heroes and help their parents financially, for others it is want for money, power, and material possessions. Despite the heavy philosophical connotations presented by the director, it is undoubtably obvious that some characters had little relevance, and their presence was weak. The alien astronaut for example had the potential to play a key role in the story; however, he was brought down to serving as a mere comic-relief character.
As for the animation, Galvão’s style, to vaguely put, is quite quirky. It is reminiscent of more traditional animations from the 50’s; it was like watching Mickey Mouse and going back to our childhood days all over again. The style did add on to the viewing experience, and there was no telling what other interesting visuals will pop up. Viewers will have a tough time finding themselves distracted while watching the ‘Fabulous Hansel and Gretel.’ Despite all the positivity, the jarring weakness would certainly be the underwhelming vocal performance of some of the minor/major voice actors. The feature could have done miles better if actors were made to express themselves more openly, and were asked to feel their character’s emotions more intimately that they already did.
Arnaldo Galvão’s ‘Fabulous Hansel and Gretel’ is extremely fun to watch. It is both a light hearted fantasy story a more modern reedition of the sibling’s story, and a marvelous representation of complicated philosophy.
Rohan Bhattacharya is a video editor, filmmaker and writer. His film Komorebi won the second prize in ‘South Asia Japanese Language Short Film Competition,’ organized by The Japan Foundation, New Delhi and his latest film “Tsubaki” has been screened at the Tokyo Short Film Festival in Japan. His production house Sunkaku Productions makes movies in Japanese language to create a bridge of culture between India and Japan.