Gwen, the Book of Sand (1985) Poster

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Rarely seen feature length animated film
Saturnome2 February 2009
Paper cut animation is usually seen as a cheap animation method, because we are used to cheap animation done with it. When one see the work of Yuri Norstein or Jean-François Laguonie his opinion change.

Though "Gwen (Le livre de sable)" isn't very animated, it's all about atmosphere and beautiful visuals. Even if it's paper cutout, most of the animation is made by redrawing characters every frame just like traditional animation, except everything is shaded all the time, with a particular texture to it.

The world in the film is a imaginative fantasy, mixing surrealism, middle-orient and a bit of science-fiction. It's not a character driven film, they are somewhat flat and just part of the pretty picture. The story is vague, very mysterious and you interpret it the way you want if you feel the need to, though there's very apparent references to religion, the Bible especially, and materialism. In my opinion, the film lacks something to care for, as you are left confused about what's going on for a good while. The slow pace, which otherwise is absolutely perfect for the film, doesn't help you to feel good when you are confused. The voice acting is very neutral too, they have no emotion, which kinda fits the style but doesn't help the bland characters.

The Story tells that a long time ago, the gods went away, but they left a mysterious thing which at night lay stuff around the land. These things are giant beds, sinks, clocks, etc. When two young people decides to stay out for the night, one is kidnapped by the thing, and the other, with the mother of the kidnapped, go to find the thing.

Watch it if you liked Laguonie's shorts (I sure do). Or if you like surreal films, experimental and not-only-for-kids animation. It got it's defaults, but it's worth a look.
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A surreal animated journey
centinel82214 March 2014
First, let me say that I am no expert in French animation, much less the works of Jean-François Laguionie, so I am reviewing this movie from the angle of the average film fan.

Gwen, the Book of the Sand, is a surreal journey in a would that appears created on the detritus of our own. In this world, the people eek out a living in a vast desert that they share with some birds and what appears to be the trash we'd find in any landfill -- old spectacles, rusty bikes, etc. Gwen, a newcomer to the tribe, forms a bond with a strange boy, who is soon taken by the mysterious entity that prowls the desert at night. Gwen journeys with the boy's grandmother into the unknown to find him.

The visuals are simple, yet serenely beautiful. The world is made strange by the juxtaposition of the desert nomadic motif to the common everyday items that, despite their normality, seem to physically dwarf the characters. Eventually, the movie begins delving into the question of religion and understanding the purpose and desire of "God." The pacing is necessarily slow to allow the journey. If you are the sort of person who likes clearly defined plots, this is not the movie for you, in that the world Laguioneie has created becomes confusing and undefined. However, fans of surreal animation will find this unique landscape something to think about.
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