MOTHER LAND, a stunning Korean stop motion animation heads for the ice cream

Unlike Hollywood, France, or Japan, Korea is not known for any particular type of animation. However, the country is brimming with animators, and when not outsourced to foreign productions, they produce unique local films that each march to the beat of their own drum.

Mother land, a Korea Academy of Film Arts (KAFA) project that marks director Park Jae-beom’s feature debut, is such a film. While some recent shorts like Kim Kangmin’s deer flower have been awarded and acclaimed by festivals around the world, it is the first stop motion feature film to come out of the country in quite some time.

This beautifully realized fantasy survival drama is set in the snow-swept arctic tundra and centers on a family from the hardy Yates tribe. Despite the encroaching advance of civilization, this tribe maintains a traditional way of life, sleeping in tents and subsisting, as the film’s opening titles tell us, “of reindeer flesh and blood.”

Although it strives for a fast and epic tone, the story is actually very simple. Krisha is a little girl who lives with her parents and her younger brother Kolya. When their father goes to town to find medicine for their sick mother, the children set off across the tundra in search of the red bear, which is said to watch over the earth and possess the ability to heal. The only problem is that a Russian aristocrat and his former hunting guide from the Yates tribe are also on the trail of the mythical beast.

The loss of tradition in the face of encroaching modernity is still a topical subject and although Mother land doesn’t quite express feelings or ideas we haven’t seen before, it’s earnest and richly realized. This makes it easy to fall into the pacing of the story, although at just over an hour the film is a little short.

It borrows familiar elements from previous films such as colonial-era hunting action drama. The Tiger and the Japanese anime classic Princess Mononoke. The result is clear and undeniably effective, but it brings nothing new to the subject.

The lack of depth and novelty in Park’s treatment of his themes makes the story seem naive at times. This feeling is compounded before the siblings embark on their adventure through somewhat stilted family scenes that employ contemporary dialogue and a childlike animation style that clashes with the rustic backdrop.

But once the journey begins, those worries quickly fade away as the film sweeps us away with its focus, sincerity, and above all, beautiful stop motion animation. The tactile sets, with their powdery snow and rolling swamps, are a joy to behold, while the clever lighting and meticulous framing heighten the emotional thrills within the story, especially as it shifts further to fantasy in the second half.

Given the film’s effective settings, which include tense chases with wolves and clashes with hunters, there’s no doubt that Park knows how to stage a scene, but his film lacks conviction in its final moments, as a result. overly simplistic plot and story themes. .

There’s a lot to admire here, but hopefully we’ll get a chance to see how he might get away with a richer story in a future project.

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