Thursday, May 14, 2020

Claymation, Chile and Nazi Germany offshoots combine in Joaquín Cociña and Cristóbal León's first full-length feature, THE WOLF HOUSE

Strange does not begin to describe the "bizarrosities" you'll find in THE WOLF HOUSE, the debut full-lengther (after a number of short films) from the creative duo of Chilean-born artists and filmmakers, Cristóbal León and Joaquín Cociña. Jumping off from storytelling and fairytales into Nazism and Chile's own not-so-long-past fling with a dictator who gloried in torture and murder, the pair use symbols of just about every sort -- colors to animals to you-name-it -- to tell their fractured tale of a young woman, her two "children," and the descent into fascism.

Señores León and Cociña (shown above, with the latter on the left) seem to prefer the dark and the allusive to the lighter and more obvious. While this may sound promising (and for awhile it certainly is), for TrustMovies, this eventually weighs their movie down to the point that I grew tired of the utter dankness and repetition of being constantly hammered by symbols and what eventually seemed like awfully obvious, if not cheap-jack psychology.

For those of us who know and understand (granted, in my case, from afar) Chile's history and duality, the movie has its dark rewards, and I should think it will resonate most strongly in its homeland, and other nearby South American countries, each of which has had its own history of dictatorship and huge human-rights abuses. (As we here in the USA may ourselves soon have even more of.) Also, I suspect that shrinks and/or students/teachers of psychology will find much to marvel over here.

How you react to the animation may be another matter. I went into the viewing, as I do with all movies, without reading much about the film. I prefer to figure things out for myself -- this is simply more rewarding, overall, than being told by critics and/or publicists what you are about to see -- and this also allows surprise to do its work. Once I'd watched The Wolf House, I went back to read more about it, and I admit that the manner in which the artists did the filming is unusual and in its way impressive. (You can read more about that, should you choose to, here.)

While the claymation/stop-motion animation is often formidable visually, I don't think these artists have found anything close to a real storytelling ability with which to match their art. Symbols (with a little history tossed in) may be fine for awhile, but when that's what's mostly there, it all begins to pale. The brothers Grimm used symbols, too, intentionally or not, but they also knew how to tell a whale of a tale.

I originally watched The Wolf House almost two months ago, and unfortunately the notes I took seem to have gone with the wind. I don't have the time (or the desire) to view it again, but I remember all too well my initial reaction of being impressed with the art, while understanding the symbols, politics and philosophy, without finally caring a whole lot about the movie itself.

The film is unusual enough in a number of ways, however, that you may well have a different reaction. Running just 73 minutes, in German and Spanish with English subtitles, The Wolf House was to have opened theatrically in various cities but is now getting a virtual-theater debut nationwide, beginning this Friday, May 15, via KimStim. Click here then scroll down for more information and/or to see the very long list of participating virtual theaters across the country.  

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