Review: Dragons & Tunes (2017)

Dragons & Tunes (2017)

Directed by: Arnaud Demuynck, Rémi Durin, Anaïs Sorrentino, Madina Iskhakova, Nicolas Liguori | 62 minutes | animation | Original voice cast: Pieter Verelst, Jo Leyers, Ron Cornet, Thomas Cordie, Mieke Laureys, Anton Cogen, Ini Massez, Fonne Dewulf

Les Films du Nord is a film studio that was founded in 1995 by Arnaud Demuynck in the northern French city of Roubaix. Since 2001, Les Films du Nord has focused exclusively on animation films, made with various techniques: cartoons, book adaptations and puppet films, but also animation made with sand, paper and other materials. The genres are also diverse. This is not about full-length feature films; Les Films du Nord mainly focuses on short films, for both adults and children. Their most successful production to date is ‘The smell of carrots’ (2013, original title ‘Le parfum de la carotte’), which was viewed by no fewer than 175,000 cinema-goers in France and Belgium. The film consists of a compilation of short animation films that are thematically related. There is a main film that lasts 26 minutes, and three bonus films of a minimum of five to a maximum of eight minutes each. ‘Dragons and tunes’ (2017) has the same structure, although an extra bonus film of eleven minutes has been added to this and the films are talked to each other by a friendly wise owl who calls himself ‘Cinemaat’. The overarching theme is freedom, in the broadest sense of the word, and dragons, princes and princesses and/or music play a central role in all films.

The first five minute film is titled ‘Dragons and Lace’ and was directed by Anaïs Sorrentino. The little girl Rosanne is having tea with her friends on a sunny afternoon. However, it doesn’t take long before she starts to get bored. Ideally, she would like to take on the role of a knight so that she can hold sword fights. Her friends are initially unwilling to do so, so she looks for other playmates. This video is about the freedom to be who you want to be. A girl can play a knight, just as a grumbling dragon can get into her horse’s skin and a cat can play a dragon. Don’t be pigeonholed and be who you want to be.

The second film, ‘Dragon Hunt’ (six minutes), elaborates on this theme. Two young princes decide to go on a dragon hunt. Their little sister would love to come along, but they can’t. Because, they say, “dragon hunting is not for little girls.” However, the girl is not discouraged and goes in search of a dragon herself. It doesn’t take long before she makes a special friendship with a sweet green dragon. She can’t wait to introduce her brothers to her new boyfriend. ‘Dragonhunt’ is very light-hearted and the least strong of the five stories in terms of story and message.

The situation is very different with Madina Iskhakova’s eight-minute fabulous third film, ‘The Night Woman’. This is the most spiritual of the five stories, and here too a girl plays the leading role. She lives in a house or stable with three buffalo (father, mother and child). Every night they make sure they are inside before it gets dark, with the doors, windows and curtains closed. The girl and the animals are afraid of the dark. Then one morning they find a little boy among the reeds. They are led to him by a bird that can sing beautifully. The animal turns out to be the soul of the boy. The girl accepts the boy as a brother in her ‘family’. But when one evening they forget to close a window, the bird flies out the window, towards the Night Woman… The film has something magical and fairytale-like (partly due to the intriguing drawing style), with a beautiful layered message in which the theme ‘Freedom’ can be explained at different levels. For very small children, this movie can be a bit exciting here and there, especially the night woman, which is designed with dark tones.

The fourth film is ‘The Unicorn’, directed by Rémi Durin. In this eleven-minute fairytale, a greedy little king becomes fascinated by a mysterious horned white creature in the forest. He sends his best hunter to catch the animal, because the king wants it as a pet. But it can’t get hold of the animal. It is the queen who manages to approach the animal in a controlled and loving way. To her husband’s delight, she manages to lure the unicorn to the palace. The king is pampering his new pet, but the unicorn is not really happy at the palace. Here too, the theme of freedom is omnipresent; no matter how rich or powerful you are, you cannot claim everything and everyone.

The final piece is the 26-minute ‘main film’ ‘The wind in the reed’, directed by Demuynck and Nicolas Liguori. Here too there is an important role for a young girl. But first we meet a traveling troubadour from the east, who ends up in a land unknown to him. He has barely crossed the border when his instruments are taken by an army of stern soldiers. Without his instruments, the troubadour is miserable. An innkeeper tells him that the king has banned all music in the country because his son has become deaf-mute after an unfortunate incident. Hearing music has been too painful for the king ever since. The instrument maker and his wife have been arrested and put in prison, their daughter Eliette now lives in the inn and has secretly made a flute. Eliette and the troubadour become friends and decide together to ensure that the people can free themselves from their musicless existence. This video has the most traditional story and could have been worked out in fifteen minutes. Nevertheless, ‘The wind in the reeds’ also looks away.

‘Draken en dituntjes’ appears in Flemish cinemas in Dutch cinemas. Certain word usage will seem a bit strange to Dutch children, but the context makes everything clear in principle (otherwise their parents will just have to whisper the Dutch equivalent of the words to them). The five films are not all equally strong or special (the focus is clearly in the middle, with ‘The Night Woman’ and ‘The Unicorn’), but they are drawn in special styles and provided with beautiful music. Among all the animation violence from America, ‘Dragons and tunes’ is a modest but striking contribution from France, with strong themes that invite you to discuss it again with the young viewers afterwards.

Comments are closed.