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Álex de la Iglesia
Armando De Razza,
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Surreal cut-out stop-motion animation film presents a nightmare world
Superficially this looks like a Terry Gilliam / Monty Python animated cartoon and it is indeed very funny and quite surreal. A man with mechanical wings strapped to him visits a strange 19th-century European city whose streets and buildings are oddly empty. He has several weird adventures which culminate in his being captured by a mad scientist who early on has noted his presence and who probably rules the city. The scientist-ruler subjects the visitor to painful scientific examinations but he manages to escape and tries to leave the city. The ruler searches for him and sends out bat-winged scouts to find the visitor and bring him down.
The combination of stop-motion animation and collages of paper cut-out 19th-century figures and buildings gives the short a distinctive steam-punk look and provides opportunities for humorous sight gags. Insects with human heads and animated dinosaur skeletons don't look at all out of place we accept them as inventions of the mad scientist-ruler. Colour is an important feature and its use is very striking and beautiful. The musical soundtrack assumes a major role in enhancing the action and tension of the plot and of the 19th-century atmosphere as the film is completely silent.
There are passages where the action seems fussy and dragged out the scientific examination of the visitor is probably overdone though the animation is very droll and the use of colour very original in parts and the film could have been edited for a faster, tighter plot narrative.
Overall "The Labyrinth" presents a world at once absurd, bizarre and entertaining but which turns out to be nightmarish and deadly. The city is more Hotel-California than the visitor realises: you can visit and stay as long as you like but you can never leave; a parallel with the authoritarian state that existed in Poland in the early 1960s, and the absurdities associated with totalitarian rule that went on in that country, can be observed.
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