Two days ago, I attended a screening of “Ernest & Celestine”, a 2012 French animated film that, thanks to the brilliant GKIDS, has a limited subtitled release. We can all hope and pray that the film is successful, but considering that there were only around ten people in the theater during the showing I attended, this does not seem very probable.
“Ernest & Celestine” is a sweet film based on a series of children’s book of the same name by the Belgian author Gabrielle Vincent. It tells the story of a young mouse named Celestine who, to the shock and horror of her fellow mice, befriends a bear named Ernest.
Despite the colorful, watercolor visuals of the film, the characters are quite complex. Celestine is an inquisitive mouse who despises the monotony and regulations of the underground mice world, yearning for adventure on the surface. She dreams of becoming an artist, her talent at perceiving the inner core of artistic subjects greatly stifled by the rest of the mouse society, which prefers more structured, nationalistic pursuits.
Ernest is pretty hilarious. He is a destitute and starving musician living out in a cabin in the middle of the woods. Essentially, me in bear form.
Without spoiling any major plot points, Ernest and Celestine meet each other, seemingly by chance, and have a little adventure together. Their friendship grows, but due to certain events triggered by Ernest and Celestine’s antics, the entirety of the bear and mice civilizations get into a fight. The result of this fight? That is where things get very interesting. The issue of the bears and mice being unable to have friendship is resolved, but the societal issues that stifled the creativity and productivity of both Ernest and Celestine were not, at least not explicitly. One problem was temporarily resolved, while another remained prevalent.
My point is that the ending was very realistic. In most fairy tales, there is always a happy ending, or in modern fairy tales, a desperate attempt at realism by providing a highly idealized ending that is not necessarily happy, although still not realistic. Reality is more complicated than that, and it is very difficult to convey adequately in art. I believe that “Ernest & Celestine” succeeded in portraying this quite well.
One of my favorite scenes in the film, although it is hard to pick just one, is a scene where Celestine decides that she wants to paint a wintry landscape. Celestine begins by drawing a curved blue line and shows it to Ernest. This is the image in its purest, most simplified state. Ernest proceeds to pick up a violin and shows Celestine how a winter landscape “sounds”. The animation then evolves into abstract animation, the pictures complementing the music and vice versa, concluding in the eventual completion of both the song and the painting. It is difficult to describe in words, but it is one the best pieces of animation I have seen in a theatrical setting thus far.
“Ernest & Celestine”, although it possess many intricacies, is at its core, a warm and fun film. With vivid colors, smooth animation, quirky music, and memorable, relatable characters, it will capture the imaginations of people of all ages. I urge you all to go and see it, subtitled preferably, before it leaves this country forever, never to be seen again, buried by our society.