The Boy and the World (O Menino E O Mundo)
Director/Screenplay – Ale Abreu, Producers – Fernando Carvalho & Tita Tessler, Music – Ruben Feffer & Gustavo Kerlat. Production Company – Filme de Papel.)
A young boy wanders away from home. His search for his parents takes him on an amazing journey into the world.
The Boy and the World is the second feature film for Brazilian animator Ale Abreu. Abreu’s previous film had been Garoto Cosmico (2007), a similarly colourful science-fiction work about children discovering a circus.
There is an incredible simplicity to the film. It is often little more than the sketches that children might make – simple representative shapes and lines in lieu of full objects, or else rough jagged washes of colour that look as though they have been drawn by crayon. That and a series of seemingly endless geometric patterns – indeed, the film both opens and ends by pulling back and zooming into a series of fractals – and the ways that these can be played with and broken up. The characters have a minimalist simplicity that look like the animatics for a Henry Selick film. The whole film takes place on a two-dimensional plane that makes it resemble one of the films of Michel Ocelot – Kirikou and the Sorceress (1998) and in particular Princes and Princesses (1999). All of this makes for an amazingly colourful and vibrant film.
The plot holding everything together is an incredibly vague picaresque that avoids any of the above synopsis – it is not at all clear, for instance, why the boy ends up being separated from his parents. The film vaguely takes place in something resembling a representation of the real world – albeit one where the dialogue is a gobbledegook that Ale Abreu has made up from random words and sounds. You could even argue that The Boy and the World is a science-fiction film – we get occasional appearances from flying cars and a visit to a domed city that floats through the sky, while the presence of two moons might indicate that everything is taking place on another planet. Finally about the 70-minute mark, Ale Abreu throws in several brief live-action scenes of logging, industry, cars and the like to make a probably over-obvious point about pollution and despoliation.
I loved the film’s ability to reduce everything to a sketchy essence – be it the stylised vehicles, characters that exists as no more than a couple of lines and dots for faces. The Boy and the World is a film that is almost entirely pure eye candy – you could allow it to play out with the sound off at a party and everyone could space out watching the play of patterns and shapes – and yet in all of this, the film also manages to craft characters that are gently endearing.