“A good sense of smell is worth a thousand words,” says Marona (Lizzie Brocheré), the canine protagonist of Anca Damian’s Marona’s Fantastic Tale. By that rationale, so is an evocative painting, and Damian’s searing film is chockful of startlingly beautiful imagery, anchored by an extremely lovable hero. An ode to man’s best friend, our humanity (or the lack thereof), utilizing trippy, hand-drawn animation of yore, Marona’s Fantastic Tale marks another formidable entry in the GKIDS catalogue.
“Life had taught me that happiness is just a break from the pain,” Marona narrates. The poor, adorable pup had a rough life. The film tragically starts with her death, then rewinds and takes us through the events that led to it. As a puppy, Marona is given up by her father’s heartless owner. She’s then adopted by Manole (Bruno Salomone), an acrobat who calls her “boy” even after finding out she’s a girl. “Every time you fall,” he says, “be glad it wasn’t from higher up.” Just as Marona gets comfortable, the rug is pulled from beneath her paws, leading to drastic ups and downs. She goes on to live with the muscular construction worker Istvan (Thierry Hancisse), stays with a violent grandmother, must evade animal control officers, and finally ends up in the loving arms of little Solange (Shirelle Mai-Yvart) and her hard-working mother.
“…tragically starts with her death, then rewinds and takes us through the events that led to it.”
With Marona’s Fantastic Tale, Damian has created a genuine work of art. Surreal images pop off the screen, the world seen through the eyes of a dog. Marona’s first trip into the city is both twisted and magnificent, filled with triangular, monstrous, continuously-morphing humans. Then there is the video game-like construction site, which is vibrant and joyful, with caring and lovable folks. This is how canines must regard us: as threats and companions, as trustworthy and traitorous. When the acrobat transforms into a butterfly and grows extra limbs and then soars into the air, it’s as if Damian anthropomorphizes her hope for humanity.
Marona’s Fantastic Tale gently and poetically deals with heavy themes like mortality, solitude, and loss, but manages to be suitable viewing for the entire family (it’s certainly less scarring than Don Bluth’s All Dogs Go to Heaven). It reiterates that the love our dogs have for us is unconditional and that we shouldn’t regard them as accessories or temporary means of respite. It’s also a phantasmagoric feast for the eyes. Seek it out.
"…chockful of startlingly beautiful imagery, anchored by an extremely lovable hero..."