Review: This Magnificent Cake! – Ce magnifique gateau! (2018)

This Magnificent Cake! – Ce magnifique gateau! (2018)

Directed by: Emma De Swaef, Marc James Roels | 55 minutes | animation, comedy | Original voice cast: Jan Decleir, Bruno Levie, Paul Huvenne, Gaston Motambo, Alexander Rolies, August Rolies, Jamal Tahri, Michel Kossi, Wim Willaert, Goua Robert Grovogui, Anna Schoonbroodt, Angelo Tijssens, Sebastien Dewaele, Dirk Rypens, Walter Canipel

The king dreams. The king of Belgium dreams. The end of the 19th century is approaching and the king of Belgium dreams of his own colony, to plant his own flag on an exotic piece of land, just like all the other European kings. In the end, the king of Belgium gets his colony, deep in the heart of Africa. A colony to which Belgians of all sorts flee: a deserter, a baker’s son, a clarinetist who had to stop playing by the king. Why was that clarinetist not allowed to continue playing? Because the king dreamed of a cuckoo deep in the forest, a cuckoo that sounded like a clarinet.

The above story elements form the basis of the short Belgian animation film ‘This Magnificent Cake’. This wonderful animation comes in the form of stop-motion, with puppets and sets made of felt, wool and other fabrics. The film is divided into five separate chapters, with five different main characters, who sometimes meet and sometimes don’t. These encounters give the film coherence, but also the recurring motifs, the consistent aesthetics, the African decor, the calm voice-over, the music and the central subject.

‘This Magnificent Cake’ tells about the disruptive effects of colonization. Indigenous people who lose their home and get lost in their own land. Colonizers who can never adapt to the strange new world and then order beer from Flanders, build a western house in the jungle, with a huge statue of themselves in the garden. And while the natives dream of the house they have lost, the invaders dream of the house they have left.

Even for those who are not interested in such themes, this film is worth watching. The animations are stylish and wonderful, and this also applies to the music, impressionistic sounds from around the turn of the last century (Ravel, Debussy). The individual chapters have their own tone and logic, somewhat comparable to the surrealistic work of the Italian Alessandro Baricco, a writer who often situates his stories about great dreamers in past centuries and exotic places.

The only thing you can blame the makers is that some sequences are just a bit too long, which sometimes causes the attention to slacken for a while. That’s okay, this is a lonely class animation anyway. The King of Belgium can be proud of it.

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