The Girl Without Hands
Destitute and on the brink of starvation, a lowly miller is approached in the forest by the devil. In exchange for what lay behind his mill, the devil offers the man immeasurable wealth. He agrees, thinking the devil will only be taking his fruitless orchard; after his stream starts to run with liquid gold, the miller discovers it was his young daughter the devil desired, who had been playing in one of the trees. The devil comes to take his prize, but finds her hands too clean for his taking. He asks the miller to cut them off, and the miller agrees – they had a deal, after all. He chops away his daughter’s hands with an axe, but her tears cleanse the stumps, and she remains too clean for the devil's collection. She runs away from home, on a strange adventure, with the devil on her heels.
Adapted from one of the Brothers Grimm’s many morbid tales, the dark and stunningly beautiful The Girl Without Hands made its premiere at last year’s Cannes film festival. The striking, painted frames are even more impressively a one-man effort: French illustrator Sébastien Laudenbach hand-painted each image on his own in a single year. He did so linearly, working on the very first image and continuing until the very last, seeing very little of it in motion until a full-length rough cut was assembled. His results are a style that’s quite unique: Laudenbach’s key frames – the most important images – are fully drawn, while the frames in between are sometimes only partial drawings. In motion, parts of the characters fade as they move. It can be very expressive and painterly; at other points, almost ghostly.
GKIDS’ Blu-ray edition does a great service to Laudenbech’s work, presenting it in bold color for home viewers. While the film only runs 76 minutes, the Blu-ray includes an interview with Laudenbech and Making Of featurette, as well as a selection of the filmmaker’s prior short films. If you’re an animation fan, this individual, stylish film receives our high recommendation.
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