The Bears’ Famous Invasion of Sicily (La fameuse invasion des ours en Sicile)
This is a vibrant, delightful animation, one simply rendered and knowingly told. Using cool colouring and design to reformulate a medieval story, director Lorenzo Mattotti adapts Dino Buzzati’s popular 1945 children’s book of the same name. The film takes a fabular turn, with narrative touches of Orwell’s Animal Farm and aesthetic shades of de Chirico’s piazzas. There is a modernist sheen to its classical European forms, a narrative layering to its basic morality tale.
A troubadour figure accompanies a young woman. They perform a sort of baroque theatre across the noticeably Mediterranean landscape, consisting of winding steps and plunging crevasses. Straying into a bear’s cave and fearful for their lives, the pair resorts to storytelling craft, enacting the events that produce the legend of ursine-human relations. Mattotti smartly inverts the telling in the final act, querying the presumptive arrogance of human accounts. It exemplifies the useful marriage of depth and straightforwardness throughout this work.
Spectral figures populate spaces between bears and humans, between political beasts of the land and fantastic monsters of the deep. Evoking the distinct homelands of the bears and humans reveals the worlds above and below. The afterlife merges with behemoths and leviathans. Sovereignty, as it happens, embodies the central question. Who rules and who holds power: lieutenants, mystics, or the divine leader himself? The king’s two bodies – the individual and the position – jostle for supremacy. These gnarly themes are spryly and elegantly handled.
Co-written by Jacques Audiard’s regular collaborator Thomas Bidegain and with a voice cast that includes Toni Servillo and Leïla Bekhti, this is a substantial and carefully wrought film that belies the relative brevity of its short running time. There’s a subtle mirroring and distinguishing between the two tribes, as the bears fall into human vice and proclivities. The fear of assimilation is ever present, which feeds the eerie anxiety of looking from bear to man, from man to bear, from bear to man again, and it being impossible to say which was which.
The Bears’ Famous Invasion of Sicily (La fameuse invasion des ours en Sicile) does not have a UK release date yet.
Read more reviews from our Cannes Film Festival 2019 coverage here.
For further information about the event visit the Cannes Film Festival website here.
Watch the trailer for The Bears’ Famous Invasion of Sicily (La fameuse invasion des ours en Sicile) here: