Monday 22 October 2012

A Cruel Tale: Return to the Dream (2012)

Director: Andrés Vidal Alarcón
Star: Sofia Medel
This film was an official selection at Phoenix FearCon V in Scottsdale in 2012. Here's an index to my festival reviews.
Here's a strange one: a four minute animated horror story set in the land of dream. It features a child but is narrated by his mother, who we're not sure is really looking out for him or not. Maybe that's the point: from a child's view, it's often hard to tell the difference. Neither character has a name, making them archetypal. It's a Spanish film, though one that's presented in English, from the warning screen to the heavy but appealing accent of narrator Sofia Medel. IMDb hasn't quite figured out what it is yet, as it lists two films by two different writer/directors: an 8 minute 2005 short, Vuelta al sueño, by Andrés Vidal Alarcón, and a 4 minute 2012 short, Vuelta al sueno: Un cuento cruel, by Andres Vidal. The truth is in hidden at the end of the credits: the 2005 film was a student short, while the 2012 film is a remastered version with a fresh cut, updated story and new music. The filmmaker is the same, Andrés Vidal Alarcón.

It tries to do a lot in a mere four minutes, not least to fix what Alarcón saw as errors caused back in 2005 by being more ambitious than his skills would allow him to live up to. I haven't seen that version, but this one is a fascinating piece. We watch a child go to sleep and enter the world of dream through a portal. Alarcón paints fractal landscapes with liquid walls and playful light. He uses effects to enhance the story, like artistic blur and double exposure. Everything is scary but warm, especially with the lush voice of Sofia Medel telling us how much she cares for her baby, who runs away from her in his dreams. But then we meet her, in dream form as a scary sort of steampunk dinosaur Jack Skellington. She's not a cruel mother, she tells us, while committing what we might interpret as a cruel act. But this is about innocence and sacrifice, right? She does care for him deeply, right? Or maybe she doesn't. That's open to a great deal of interpretation.

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