Ossus Library Index Non-Fiction Movie Index


Directed by Alexander Petrov (1999, Productions Pascal Blais)
Voices by Gordon Pinsent and Kevin Delaye

A portrait of Ernest Hemmingway, and an animated adaptation of an old man who battles a large fish for his self-respect.



4 stars

June 1st, 2002 on the IMAX screen


A stunningly beautiful picture, telling a very simple story in a beautiful way.  The introduction, a Portrait of Ernest Hemmingway, was also fun, though a little grandstanding for my tastes.

The introduction is confined to a small room where a couple of video editors are pitching their idea of a good biography to their boss, back in the year that Hemmingway died.  They show a video outlining his life, especially his loves, hunting and fishing, Spain and Cuba, and so on.  They continue their banter, at the same time giving us more information.  The camera pans over the novels that he has written, strewn about the table, as we listen to a recorded message from Hemmingway himself.

The main focus of this film, even though it takes up less than half the running time, is the animated adaptation of Hemmingway's novel The Old Man and the Sea.  It was created through paintings, by a master painter.  There are only two characters, the Old Man, and the Boy who wants to be his apprentice. 

The story is very simple in itself, which makes it worth the time even more.  The Old Man goes out to fish, telling the Boy that he can't join him, because he is unlucky -the Old Man has not caught a fish in months, and the Boy deserves more than a down-on-his-luck master.

The Old Man goes out before dawn, so that the rising tide will help him come in when he is tired.  He waits, and as the sun is rising, a small fish catches his line.  He reels it in, and uses part of it as bait.  He catches a larger fish, a massive one, and spends the next full day trying to reel it in.  The battle is a long one, where both Man and Fish tire, rest, then continue the struggle afterwards.  The man also eats the rest of the small fish he had caught.

When the Man finally brings it close enough to harpoon, and ties it to his boat (it is too large to fit inside), the gigantic fish is attacked by sharks.  The fish is completely eaten by the time he makes it back to shore.  But the villagers, especially the Boy, stare in wonder as they find the bones of the fish tied to his boat.  The old man won his self-respect, and that of the village, back again.

But the real beauty lies in the artwork.  I was completely amazed by this artist.  Through wide brush strokes, he made the scene come to life, with bright colors, light textures, and mostly light blues and off-whites.  Part of the joy was in realizing that this was an animation, unlike so many animated movies, which try to be lifelike.  The facial features, as well as the rest of the animation, were never quite consistent.  It was more like watching a flip-book than a cartoon.  Awesome.

In any case, the story was really beautiful in both the artwork and in the simplicity of the tale.  The voices were just perfect for the parts.  The Boy was enthusiastic, and the Old Man, who also narrated throughout, as if from a journal, was calm, controlled, and had a very soft voice -somebody you could automatically trust.  I was mesmerized.


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