What They Say:
Sebastien Laudenbach’s utterly transporting, hand-painted masterpiece unfolds with the dream logic of a fairytale, taking you into the darker, primal origins of the Brothers Grimm’s tales. In hard times, a miller sells his daughter to the Devil. Protected by her purity, she escapes, but in revenge the Devil deprives her of her hands. Abandoning family and home, she sets off into the woods and begins her long journey towards the light.
The audio presentation for this release brings us the original French language track in 5.1 encoded using the DTS-HD MA lossless codec. The film is one that is more often subdued than not with what it wants to do but there are some beautifully sweeping moments where it just whisks you along and engages you throughout the soundfield with what it does. The soundtrack for it is just as much a character as those within it and that’s expertly handled here to enhance just about everything. The dialogue is something that’s well placed throughout and the way the characters move, almost appearing and disappearing at times, is given some really neat continuity as it moves about in those sequences. In the end, dialogue is clean and clear throughout and it’s a solid release in this area.
Originally in theaters in 2016, the transfer for this film is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. With it being a passion project from Sebastien Laudenbach, this is one of those animated works that’s just visually striking throughout. The use of color and the layering elements are beautifully handled and the emotions that came though even without any dialogue being spoken really does an amazing job of bringing the intent and feeling to life that Laudenbach pours into it. The style of the film is one that you don’t see often and some aspects of it reminded me of some Japanese folktale anime projects I’ve seen years ago, but this is simply distinctive and beautiful throughout. It’s one of the best ways to adapt this tale and the encoding for it is just clean and clear throughout, letting every detail of what Laudenbach did shine through.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The Brothers Grimm fairy tales have been adapted into other forms countless times and in a variety of ways but there’s always a new way to do it. Directed by Sebastien Laudenbach, who also wrote, edited, and animated it as his feature debut, The Girl Without Hands is is a fascinating and strikingly strong project. A lot of it comes down to the visual approach that he used in telling the tale, which you can see in the trailer above that doesn’t do it anywhere near as much justice as it should, and I really lament that this never played theatrically because that must be an experience in itself. The film also makes out well for the strong performance by Anaïs Demoustier as the girl and Jérémie Elkaïm as the Prince later in it. I also have a particular affection for how Philippe Laudenbach portrayed the Devil.
The premise is one that we’ve seen in several cultures over the years as we’re introduced to a miller who is offered riches by the devil with a trick to it. That trick is that the devil wants the millers daughter that was playing in a tree behind the mill. The devil, in all his forms, is a tricky creature and seeing the way he comes back from time to time before the girl is old enough is frightening in all the right ways as it moves between shapes with ease. There are quite a few years between the deal and when the devil comes to claim what was promised to him and we see how the miller and his wife benefit from it in a big way as gold pretty much flows through the mill. The family is interesting to watch as this unfolds in how they kind of push the bargain to the background and enjoy the riches while trying to avoid what it will eventually cost them.
The problem that arises at the time of claiming is that the devil has found that the girl’s hands are too clean, to the point where he can’t do anything with her. This was something that was hoped to be dealt with in the years of the deal but the devil puts the screws to the miller over this. In one of the quickest but most brutal of sequences in this film, having the father cut off his daughter’s hands – with her willingly offering them because she must do as her father tells her, is just heart rending. But even this isn’t enough in the end because her tears flow over the stumps which cleanses them, making her further unable to be taken by the devil.
The story takes some creative directions as it goes on from there with her eventually leaving, getting caught up with a prince and a story there that pushes her further into her own form of self-reliance and independence. With it being based in the fairy tale there’s plenty of dreamlike moments in her initial journey, dealing with the goddess of the river, exploring a garden, and later finding her own path in the world with her own child, and it’s simply captivating. With a seventy-six minute running time, it’s able to take its time to deal with the various arcs within it even as the devil rears his ugly head from time to time hoping to claim what is truly his and manipulating events in his favor. As is the case with many fables, you can’t be sure that things will work out in the end and watching it unfold with that as the stakes rise makes it worth every moment.
The Girl Without Hands is one of the more creative and beautifully done animated films that I’ve seen in the last several years. With Hollywood having gone for the CG approach for everything and anime largely stuck in a rut, something like this just hits a sweet spot as you can feel Laudenbach’s passion coming through with every free, every movement of animation with its intent. There are so many creative moments throughout that just draw you into it that I can only imagine the storyboarding process and figuring out how to do these transitions and which ones to do which way. With rich performances from the cast and a great release from GKIDS that gives it clean and appealing design, this is definitely something to take in and immerse yourself in. Very recommended.
French DTS-HD MA 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Making Of, Director’s Interview, Short Films, Trailer
Content Grade: A
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: A
Packaging Grade: A-
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B+
Released By: Shout! Factory
Release Date: February 20th, 2018
Running Time: 76 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Widescreen
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.