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THE SECRET ADVENTURES OF TOM THUMB

UK, 1993 (MIFF 1994, Animation Focus)

Director: The Bolexbrothers

This post-industrial version of the famous fairytale is given a Kafkaesque, if not to say decidedly Eraserhead-ish feel. Employing pixelation techniques which combine human, model and plasticine forms, the directors (the talentedly off-beat Bristol-based bolexbrothers aka Dave Borthwick and Dave Riddett) create a unique visual style that projects their dark, revisionist retelling through the prism of Sci-Fi dystopia.

Leading a bleak existence in a nightmare city, a poor childless couple is suddenly and bloodily blessed with a tiny boy. Their joy is short-lived, for the Ministry of Sinistry agents kidnap Tom and whisk him off to the laboratory of a thousand terrors, a centre of terrifying and sadistic experiments. In this netherworld of pain, Tom finds himself among bizarre creatures, part fur, feather, bone and flesh. To escape is fraught with danger, but to stay is surely fatal. Tom flees, and is lost in a chaotic and disharmonious universe, full of filth, detritus and lurid decay.

Though the screen is suffused with all manner of mutations, with an emphasis on the monstrous, this mesmerising work nonetheless hums with a sense of pathos (delivering a sharp blow to the ethics of genetic engineering and animal testing) and is peculiarly moving.

Technically flawless in the evocation of its grim and apocalyptic world, The Secret Adventures Of Tom Thumb fuses its many influences, from the Quay Brothers and Svankmajer, to the short films of Starewicz, into a superbly integrated and coherent vision of evil and innocence.

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