fri 03/02/2023

Blu-ray: Son of the White Mare | reviews, news & interviews

Blu-ray: Son of the White Mare

Blu-ray: Son of the White Mare

Eye-popping Hungarian animated epic is a treat for the senses

Treeshaker, finding his feet

Son of the White Mare (Fehérlófia), a 1981 Hungarian animated epic, defies easy description, Marcell Jankovics’ film blending folklore and psychedelia to startling effect.

There’s violence, heartbreak, black humour and romance, all accompanied by István Vajda’s harsh but striking electronic score. Acclaimed on its original release and ranked highly on critics’ lists of best animated films, Son of the White Mare has been hard to find in recent years, making this reissue all the more welcome. You can’t help wondering what the youthful target audience made of it. Jankovics recognised that young children are especially open to fairy tales, hoping that a simple tale of courage, love and forgiveness would hit home. His hero Fanyüvő, known as Treeshaker, is born in the opening scenes to the titular white horse, gaining his superhuman strength by drinking his mother’s milk. The stylised blue mare is a wonderful creation, filling her young son’s mind with tales of monsters; it’s hard not to shed a tear when she dies. The adult Treeshaker meets his brothers Kőmorzsoló (Stonecrumbler) and Vasgyúró (Ironrubber), but only he is brave enough to descend into to the underworld and rescue three voluptuous princesses from a series of increasingly terrifying dragons.

White MareThat the fearless Treeshaker will succeed is never in doubt, Jankovics simplifying his source material and showing us three variants of the same sequence. The multi-headed beasts he faces are angular, sour-faced creatures with bodies that suggest cannons and modern tanks. That the hero feeds his own legs to a hungry griffin to help him return home seems completely natural, Jankovics’ world so vividly portrayed that we take everything at face value.

The hand-drawn animation is gorgeous, each frame packed with movement and detail. Colours are blindingly bright. Castles spin, stars twinkle and explosions resemble nuclear mushroom clouds. Treeshaker’s blonde muscularity is all curves and circles, while his enemies are inflexible geometric shapes. Jankovics has a gift for portraying movement: however outlandish his figures’ proportions, they walk and dance as if they’re flesh and blood.

Son of the White Mare is an extraordinary film, and a genuine work of art. Eureka’s high-definition transfer gleams and the disc comes with enticing extras. A 2020 interview with Jankovic is entertaining (he died in 2021), the director talking about his career and the debt his style owed to The Beatles’ Yellow Submarine. There’s also a selection of earlier films, including his 1973 feature debut Johnny Corncob and two brief but brilliant shorts. 1974’s Sisyphus was Oscar-nominated, and The Struggle, made three years later, received a Palme d’Or. It’s bleak but delicious, Jankovics’ handsome sculptor crushed by the statue he’s carving.

@GrahamRickson

Treeshaker’s blonde muscularity is all curves and circles

rating

Editor Rating: 
5
Average: 5 (1 vote)

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