Over the weekend I saw Ivan Tsarevitch and the Changing Princess which was playing as part of the Seattle International Film Festival (SIFF). I meant to get this review up Saturday afternoon/evening so that I could encourage Seattle readers to see the film Sunday afternoon, the only other time it is playing. But visiting family left me with limited time and energy to get this review written and posted.
Ivan Tsarevitch et la Princess Changante is a French film written by Michele Ocelot. It consists of four short stories, tied together by the overarching story of a young boy and girl putting on shows of these stories in a dilapidated theater, helped by an old theater technician. Summaries of the four stories, quoted from the SIFF website, are below.
A young girl who lives in a monster-fearing underground community gains the courage to face her fears and challenge her society in “The Mistress of the Monsters.” A poor Persian boy becomes apprentice to a powerful enchanter, only to learn of his dastardly ulterior motives in “The Sorcerer’s Pupil.” A put-upon ward on a pirate ship outsmarts his captain during a stop in India in “The Ship’s Boy and His Cat.” And the son of a dying Russian tsar races against time to find a cursed princess in “Ivan Tsarevitch and the Changing Princess.”
“The Mistress of the Monsters” is my favorite. A few lines of dialogue that are repeated throughout the story have stuck with me. The girl is scared to face the monsters and leave behind the only world she has known and says to the rat who is helping her, “But I’m scared.” The rat’s response: “Okay. Go on.” Characters pushing forward and continuing to “go on” even when they’re scared or otherwise feel like they can’t is one of my favorite narrative themes. My only complaint about this story is that the girl is faced with a love interest moments after leaving her underground home. The audience doesn’t much of anything happen between the girl and her prince, and I think the story could have done without that small thread.
“The Sorcerer’s Pupil” is my least favorite. The animation of magic throughout this story is fun. But overall, this story just didn’t do as much for me as the others did.
“The Ship’s Boy and His Cat” is my second favorite. It’s a simple story, but a good one. And one of the main characters is an adorable cat, which is a surefire way to get me excited about a story.
“Ivan Tsarevitch and the Changing Princess” is the most intricate of the stories, both in terms of story and animation. It’s a beautiful finale to the film. The themes of greed and self-centeredness are very timely.
The animation style of this film is absolutely stunning. Silhouetted characters and die-cut sets made the animation just as enchanting as the stories. I wish I spoke better French; reading the subtitles took away from the time I could focus on the beautiful animation.
I very much enjoyed this film, and I hope it will be easily available for me to rewatch.