What if I were a medieval princess, locked inside a gothic castle, and you were a charmed animal, condemned by the Great Witch to wander through the wide world in search of love? What about some simple costumes and a landscape full of light and color?
What story would you make up? This is Michel Ocelot’s challenge in his animated feature film „Les Contes de la Nuit” (2011, 84 min.). This shadow theatre – silhouette animation – was the only French film selected for the 61st edition of the Berlin International Film Festival, receiving 8 nominations.
Michel Ocelot (b. 1943) dedicated his entire career to animation, being discovered by the public, for the first time, in 1998, with the release of his first feature animated film: „Kirikou et la Sorcière” (Kirikou and the Witch), followed by „Princes et Princesses” (Princes and Princesses), a selection of old stories animated using silhouettes, and „Kirikou et les Bêtes Sauvages” (Kirikou and the Wild Beasts). In 2006 his fourth feature film, „Azur et Asmar” (Azur and Asmar), is presented to the Cannes Film Festival, within the Quinzaine des Réalisateurs section.
„Les Contes de la Nuit” – Ocelot’s first 3D animation – features a boy, a girl and an old technician, inside a small, almost abandoned cinema, animating imagination, inventing a new story each time, the main characters being played by the two youngsters. Before doing so, they make a small research, looking for inspiration for backgrounds and costumes, trying to create a fairytale night with witches, fairies, princesses, charmed animals, mesmerizing music, encountering diverse challenges in a classic battle between good and evil. All these are a representation of the cartoonist’s creative process. Before the adventure begins, Ocelot is putting us on hold in front of a red curtain, creating the theatre like emotion.
The feature film extends the style from „Princes and Princesses” (2000), using black silhouettes, inspired by the Egyptian art, towards a colorful and kaleidoscopic background. The eyes are part of a visual communication, being the only way to express emotions. The dialogues are simples and, sometimes, maybe too predictable. The black neutral silhouettes are a way of entering inside the story and becoming ourselves the characters of the fairytale.