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Flatpack Film Festival Review: The King and the Mockingbird

3rd April 2014

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Based on Hans Christian Andersen's The Shepherdess and The Chimney Sweep, animation The King and the Mockingbird is often referenced as a French classic. Released in France in 1980, it has been restored and given an English soundtrack, and showed for the first time in the UK last week at Birmingham's Flatpack Film Festival.

In the film, we meet a lowly shepherdess and a chimney sweep on the run from the pompous King, who seeks the hand of the shepherdess in marriage.

The animated adventure adds to the extensive history of Andersen's fairy-tales adapted for film, which includes Cinderella, The Little Mermaid and The Emperor’s New Clothes. You could argue that this is one of the few that escaped the ‘Disney Treatment.’ The question of whether this is to the detriment or benefit of the film is something that could be extensively debated.

The charming story is often considered to be a groundbreaking event in French animation. Nowadays, the dynamism of digital technology means that animation powerhouses such as Disney Pixar and DreamWorks are constantly giving us something to marvel about. For fans of vintage film, The King and the Mockingbird will satisfy, offering a wealth of stunning illustrations bringing this timeless fairy tale to life with an old-fashioned allure. Studio Ghibli's creators, according to Flatpack,"studied it frame by frame before making their first film."

At times, the storyline is slow-moving whilst at other times the pace of action is rapid. Humour is used sparingly and is extremely quaint. There is an absence of the fast-paced banter between animated characters that to which many of us have become so accustomed. The spirited, no-nonsense mockingbird (Pierre Brasseau) makes a great rival for the arrogant king, guaranteeing a few slapstick laughs.

It is almost impossible not compare the fantasy film to the blockbuster hits of today. A majority of the scenes are addled by silence, with more emphasis on facial expressions than speech. The pace is slow; the film is accompanied by soothing classical music from the Polish virtuoso responsible the 1993 Dracula score (dir. by Francis Ford Coppola), Wojciech Kilar.

It is often said that no one is ever too old for a fairy tale and The King and the Mockingbird takes us (slowly) to a magical place where loves conquers over all and good trumps evil. With a winning blend of endearing characters, the hero and heroine in distress, the faithful aide and the ultimate villain – this simple yet lovable tale holds the potential to capture your heart. 

Flatpack Film Festival takes place yearly in Birmingham. This year's festival is now finished, but you can still visit the website here

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