Saturday, December 1, 2012

Independence Spotlight: The Great Bear/Dan Kaempestore Bjorn (2011)

This is an independently produced film that tells the story of a boy named Jonathan who has to journey into the great forest to rescue his little sister when she is taken by the 1000 year old bear who lives there.  While there Jonathan meets a hunter determined to kill the bear after it destroyed his village, and along the way Jonathan learns about the forest and the creatures in it.  This is also the first feature film for director Esben Toft Jacobsen. 

Since it is a Danish film I saw a version dubbed in English and the dub itself was actually quite good.  The words matched the lip movements quite well overall and the actors were all good, with the possible exception of the actor voicing Jonathan who came across as a bit flat at times.  Despite that the characters are likeable and well-rounded.  I liked the opening scene showing Jonathan and Sophie playing together.  It showed that Jonathan really does like his sister, but that being older than her he likes to do things on his own, and having Sophie with him all the time is annoying.  Still he does go after her into the forest and tries to protect her when he thinks the bear is a threat, even if he does really badly at it.  Sophie is also fun and smart too. I love her response to Jonathan when he tells her that she can’t name the bear Mr. Bear because you can’t call things what they are.  She responds that mom and dad are called what they are.  

The hunter, although he is the villain of the story, is still sympathetic to a degree because what happened to his village because of the bear wasn’t intentional and he is just trying to deal with it.  But the film also shows that the hunter is clearly obsessed with his revenge to the point of irrationality, and that eventually brings about his downfall.  Also I love the foreshadowing of this with Jonathan reading a copy of Moby Dick before going into the great forest.

The look of the film was very nice too.  Certainly the animation wasn’t as detailed or refined as Pixar’s, but the settings were sprawling and nice to look at, the lighting was good, and I really liked the character design of the bear.  In fact the only complaint I have about the great forest is that if it is so dangerous, why is there a door leading into it from the grandfather’s backyard?  Oh well if there wasn’t a door there this movie would be pretty darn short.  Also I think the door is supposed to be a homage to Alice in Wonderland as this is very much in line with that kind of fantasy story.  Where a character enters another world and has to deal with all the odd creatures that live there, while learning along the way.

To sum it all up the film has a standard, but enjoyable story. The animation is good, the acting was well done, at least as a English language version, and I recommend seeing the film as it makes its way around to different film festivals.

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