Review: Coppelia (2021)

Coppelia (2021)

Directed by: Steven de Beul, Ben Tesseur, Jeff Tudor | 80 minutes | animation, family | Actors: Michaela DePrince, Daniel Camargo, Vito Mazzeo, Darcey Bussell, Irek Mukhamedov, Igone de Jonghm Glynis Terborg, Nancy Burer, Jingjing Mao, Sasha Mukhamedov, Timothy van Poucke, Sem Sjouke, Edo Wijnen, Erica Horwood

There are apps where you can see a beautiful animated version of yourself with a photo of yourself and a few swipes. In a manner of speaking, you can then star in the latest Pixar or DreamWorks film. In ‘Coppelia’, a very special combination of live action, animation and ballet, residents of a small cozy village are enchanted, thinking that a magical makeover makes them look like the perfect animated version of themselves.

‘Coppelia’ is a Dutch/Belgian/German production, based on a performance by Dutch National Ballet of the same name. Some of the dancers can also be seen in this film, but directors Jeff Tudor, Steven De Beul and Ben Tesseur came up with a completely new concept for it. In addition to classical ballet dancers and actors (such as Jan Kooijman), there are also animated characters and the whole is set in a 2D drawn world, with real elements (such as certain pieces of furniture that are stood, sat or leaned against).

‘Coppelia’ is about the cheerful Swan (called Zwaantje in the Dutch press material, but her name is never spoken). She lives with her mother in the village mentioned above, where she is greeted every morning on her way to work by fellow villagers. Due to the colors and the design of the environment, you soon imagine yourself in sunny places, France, Italy, that way. Her cafe, where she serves freshly squeezed fruit juices, is located in the middle of the village square. Ideal, because that way she always has the boy who gives her butterflies in her stomach: Franz, whose bicycle repair shop is also located on the square.

The infatuation is mutual, but still very early. The young love between Swan and Franz is explored in an endearing way, clever, because in ‘Coppelia’ not a word is spoken, but in the vein of a ballet performance the viewer gets the story through dance and facial expressions. Several relationships are put under strain by the arrival of a new villager: the evil (you can tell by his mustache and eyebrows) Dr. Coppelius, who as if he were Frankenstein himself, has created a robot woman, but who has yet to be fine-tuned. He has devised a ruse for this, which almost all the villagers, except Swan, fall for. It’s up to Swan and her friends to save her mother, Franz and the rest of the village.

While the plot is easy to follow, it’s quite an achievement for a film without dialogue – even the voiceover is missing. For those who spontaneously get itchy from the words ‘classical ballet’, ‘Coppelia’ is not suitable, but for film viewers who like to open up to a new experience, this is a great introduction and also worth watching as a film. The message that true beauty comes from within has been used many times before in movies, but this time it’s not the main character who has to learn this lesson; she already knows. That’s refreshing and completely in line with the rest of the film’s feel. ‘Coppelia’ is a must for the whole family and deserves a much larger audience than it probably will get.

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