Avril et le Monde Truqué


Almost every film made is a film about a character who has a problem that needs to be solved, and the audience are taken on a the journey with them as they try to solve that problem. These films can come in the form of Star Wars, where the greater good serves as the moral compass of the film, battling the evil that tries to take over; a Coen Brothers movie, where morals usually don’t exist and characters are simply trying to get what they want; or a film like Avril et le Monde Truqué (April and the Extraordinary World), a story that shows us an alternate version of a steampunk world, with April at the centre, learning and growing as each revelation about the society she lives in is revealed to her.

Studio Ghibli’s recent retirement from animation is still looming over every animation I watch. I thought no more Ghibli films meant no more hand-drawn, intricate portraits of unique worlds, no more subtle nuances of a character that most producers would find unnecessary, and no more quiet films. Avril et le Monde Truqué is a gentle reminder to the world of animation that this is not true.

Inspired by the style of cartoonist Jarcques Tardi, the alternate steampunk universe – that co-director Christian Desmares describes as ‘a retro-futurist adventure’ – it is easy to feel as though you are immediately part of this universe, and that’s because we see the majority of the film through Avril’s (April’s) eyes. The introduction of the film places audiences in 1870, just a day before the Franco-Prussian war. Avril’s great-grandfather, under the order of Emperor Napoleon III, is trying to create a serum that makes their soldiers invincible. However, the result – at the fault of Napoleon and his soldiers – is an explosion, causing them all to die. The colour palette here is dark and almost dystopian, with the blues and greens standing out as if they are illuminated, and the dystopian atmosphere foreshadowing what is to come. This time-frame ends with an iris transition to the next time-zone, where audiences are informed Einstein and Fermi have gone missing, resulting in no creation of electricity or other technological developments. So, society survives off of burning charcoal/wood, resulting in a war that lasts all the way to a now grown-up Avril in 1941. She is on her own, thinks her parents are dead, and only has a talking cat for company.

This sounds bleak, but thanks to the humour and lovingly drawn animation, this film feels just as comforting as a Studio Ghibli film. While France definitely doesn’t have two Eiffel Towers and trains certainly don’t transport through the air, Avril et le Monde Truqué feels at times as if it is a love letter to Paris. There is a focus on the good of humanity through the morally-confused Julius, a perpetual, unbreakable bond through Avril and her Murakami-style talking cat Darwin, and a parent-child bond that saves their lives and the world. Moreover, with what seems to be a reference to Miyazaki’s Howl’s Moving Castle in a scene where Avril’s grandfather’s home gets legs and arms, it is apparent directors Christian Desmares and Franck Ekinci have good reference points, resulting in an animation that makes adults feel like they are genuinely on an adventure with Avril, seeing Paris and the world beneath as she sees it.

While Avril herself is concerned with the serum and helping humanity, – with meta and great missions and adventures – it is clear the film itself uses these great adventures to focus on the smaller, yet just as important, aspects of life, with the final scene of the film encapsulating its magic.


This Is Water

Since the result of what I refer to as That Man becoming president-elect, I’ve done a lot of thinking — mostly in a state of hopelessness despair, and anger.

Because of the colour of my skin, I’m aware this presidency would not affect me as much as it will people of colour. And because of this awareness, this disgusting bias in the world, my heart aches more for the people of colour, the Jewish community, Muslim community, people with disabilities, transgender and non-binary people, women, and many more That Man has and will bully. For these minorities in America, it’s clear there is a very real and very visceral fear in their lives now — fear that they may be deported; fear they may not be able to legally get birth control or an abortion; fear of simply walking down a street. Yet, these fears – particularly those concerned with misogyny and race – have always existed; what the orange man’s presidency shows is that this is something we cannot ignore any longer.

I’ve tried to think over the last couple of days how I could help, in any way, the minorities living in America right now. I can’t donate as I have no money to, but I have used Twitter, the New York Times, the Paris Review, novels and films to try and educate myself on parts of life I may never and/or will never experience. I’m aware it’s a privilege to have access to these things – to have access to the literature and writing and art of the world, and so from now on I’m not going to take this privilege for granted. I’m going to try and read, watch, consume as much as I can, because this election has shown me the privileges some people do not have – or refuse to acknowledge.

A lot of people in America will be dealing with extremely un-artistic, “real-world” aspects right now, such as protesting, trying to get a Visa before 20th January, getting a passport with the gender they would like to be identified with for now, and so on. Because of this, I feel kind of stupid for writing that, right now, it feels like the one thing I can do to help is to continue making art. The supporters of That Man and That Man himself want this world to be a business haven, with no creativity or artistic endeavour. Protests and so on are important right now, but it’s clear minority voices – the voices of people who have been silenced for too long – are more important than ever. I hope people out there now that we all want to hear stories from transgender people, poems from women of colours, want to see paintings from men of colour, and films from latinxs.

To try and help push back the hate, I’m going to start writing more, consuming more art, and taking it more seriously. No sarcastic comments that really just hide my fear that I’m not clever enough, no ironic statements that hide my imposter’s syndrome. None of that matters — what matters is, as my lecturer said, the power of words and what we do with them, since they have the power to shape and change the world.

So, let’s keep reminding ourselves that this is our planet. This is our world. This is water.