My Life as a Courgette
Based on Gilles Paris’s novel Autobiographie d’une Courgette, the stop-motion animation My Life as a Courgette is director Claude Barras’s debut feature film. In the French/Swiss movie, Icare, otherwise known as Courgette, is sent to an orphanage after the sudden death of his mother. Whilst there, Courgette attempts to come to terms with his grief and new environment, as well as building some long-lasting friendships. In only 66 minutes, Barras tells a compelling story that is genuinely touching.
The movie is aesthetically gorgeous. It’s brilliantly animated, with the animators adding distinctive ticks and nuances that breathe life into and add a unique spirit to each character. Two years of effort went into developing the project, with 54 handcrafted puppets and 60 sets being designed to achieve a superb result. The puppets were filmed frame by frame and slightly repositioned between takes to give a stunning appearance of dynamism and realism to their movements.
My Life as a Courgette has a simple story, but Barre adapts Paris’s novel into an engaging and optimistic tale that perhaps, paradoxically, is about childhood abuse. When Courgette meets other children in the orphanage, they muse on why some of them are there – with drugs, disability, deportation, imprisonment and sexual abuse being some of the reasons. The director could have turned this into a melancholic indictment of child social care to highlight how awful some institutions can be; but he doesn’t depict the orphanage as a place of abuse, but rather as one of “reassurance and recovery”. Thematically, this means the film has dark elements, but also provides genuinely hilarious moments and touching portrayals of childhood innocence and wonder. And it does this without being too overbearing or saccharine.
This animation is available in both subtitled and dubbed versions and its key strengths are the power of the source material and writer Celine Sciamma’s adaptation, which boasts fantastic dialogue that captures the naivety and curiosity of youth. The French language cast deliver superb performances that add warmth and depth to each character.
Barre’s movie doesn’t aim to be preachy and not every character receives a happy ending – although this is up for interpretation. But, fundamentally, this is a story about love and making the most of a dire situation. Already Oscar nominated for Best Animated Feature Film, My Life as a Courgette truly deserves the critical acclaim it has received.
My Life as a Courgette is released nationwide on 2nd June 2017.
Watch the trailer for My Life as a Courgette here: