Produced during lockdown in Italy, the series The Little Broomstick Rider is a retelling of Ludwig Bechstein’s The Little Pitchfork Rider. Matteo Bernardini conceived, wrote, directed, and did all the illustrations for the production. Cesare Bernardini constructed the sets, which leads me to believe the project was a father-son outing, with the parent encouraging the imagination and creativity of the child. But, all that is conjecture. What matters is this: each brief episode is presented via paper puppets and marker drawn sets.
Set in Bavaria in the 1620s, a court’s hearing the case against a person accused of witchcraft. The catch is that the suspect is a 9-year-old who enthusiastically answers all their questions. The joy with which the boy confesses that he is a witch and the dignity with which he speaks about his dark lord offends everyone present. As the court proceedings continue day in, day out, the members begin having nightmares of the places demons and witches frolic. Will the court actually sentence a little boy to death, or will they see the folly of killing such a young person?
“…a court’s hearing the case against a person accused of witchcraft…the suspect is a 9-year-old…”
The Little Pitchfork Rider is a pure delight. The drawings are simple but still have enough detail so that one is never guessing at what this or that is supposed to represent. This extends to the paper puppet characters as well. Each of them only has a few expressions, but Bernardini makes sure to allow the emotions to come through, so even if a viewer cannot read the dialogue boxes (which the characters hold in their hands), the tone of each episode is always quite clear. For example, in one scene, the boy mentions that one of the judges is most preoccupied with thinking of witches, demons, and the like, which infuriates the person. The glee with which the little broomstick rider says this is felt through facial expressions and body movement, while the irritation of the adult is equally understood.
The entire production runs a mere 36-minutes, but each frame is filled with creativity, while the plot has no fat to speak of. Audiences will be shocked by how invested they are in the 9-year-old and the outcome of his trial. Bernardini gets straight to the point of each scene but doesn’t forget to let the characters and situation breathe every now and then and have some fun. It is economical while never feeling like the filmmaker had to compromise or excise anything he really wanted to keep.
The Little Broomstick Rider is pure creativity unleashed in the most joyous way possible. Matteo Bernardini has only seven directorial credits (according to IMDb), and if each and every short is as stunning and fun as this, his first series, he’ll have a dynamic and incredible career helming films. The entire production drips with simple charm and deserves to be seen as soon as possible.
"…pure creativity unleashed in the most joyous way possible."