La jeune fille sans mains [The Girl Without Hands] (2016)

La jeune fille sans mains
Director: Sébastien Laudenbach
Writer: Sébastien Laudenbach
Based on: the fairy tale by the Brothers Grimm
Cast: Anaïs Demoustier, Jérémie Elkaïm, Philippe Laudenbach, Olivier Broche, Françoise Lebrun, Sacha Bourdo, Elina Löwensohn
Seen on: 4.10.2016

A struggling miller (Olivier Broche) is offered riches by the devil (Philippe Laudenbach) in exchange for what stands behind his mill. As there’s just an apple tree there, the miller agrees, only to realize that his daughter (Anaïs Demoustier) was climbing the tree at that moment. When the devil comes to claim her years later, her goodness makes it impossible for him. In a rage he forces her father to chop off her hands and that only marks the beginning of the girl’s struggle to find her way and place in the world.

Visually La jeune fille sans mains is engaging and interesting and the story is interesting as well, but I still don’t feel very enthusiastic about it, unfortunately.

The film works with a mix of hand-drawn and animated images, with an aquarell touch that has the colors bleeding over the edges of objects and figures (it reminded me a little of Belladonna of Sadness). Often lines are missing entirely, giving everything a fleeting levity that I liked. But sometimes that went a little too far for me and things went missing a bit too much.

I’m always a sucker for fairy tales and I like it when people delve into the lesser known stuff. But the fairy tales are definitely a product of their time and some of the things just don’t work that well anymore today. Like the girl’s goodness and/or purity keeping the devil away. That just comes with so many symbolic implications that I would have preferred to do without it.

But even more egregious was the way the girl’s disability was treated. At first she was utterly incompetent and unable to do anything at all, even things that would have been rather simple to solve even without hands. And then as if she simply decided that she had been incompetent for long enough and it was time to fend for herself, she is suddenly able to do even the most difficult things. There’s no real learning curve and it irritated me that she simply had to want to overcome her limits enough and then it all worked out without a hitch.

That this annoyed me unfortunately didn’t mask the fact that the film started to drag in the second half, despite the short runtime of 76 minutes. The visualy and the Grimm factor simply couldn’t make up for my unease and slight boredom, leaving me less than enthusiastic about the film.

Summarizing: It’s okay.

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