By Don Simpson | August 27, 2013
Director: Jean-François Laguionie
Writers: Jean-François Laguionie, Anik Leray
Starring: Jean Barney, Chloé Berthier, Julien Bouanich, Serge Faliu, Thierry Jahn, Jean-François Laguionie, Adrien Larmande, Jessica Monceau, Jeremy Prevost, Jacques Roehrich, Céline Ronté, Magali Rosenzweig, Thomas Sagols, Michel Vigne
Jean-François Laguionie’s The Painting begins with a relatively simple premise. The film’s characters exist within the confines of an incomplete painting and they have segregated themselves into three categories: Allduns (completed characters), Halfies (unfinished characters) and Sketchies (rough outlines). Assuming that the painter (their creator) has abandoned their painting (their world), the rigid class system is ruled by the Allduns, who claim to be the painter’s favorites since they are the only fully rendered characters. Being at the top of the social hierarchy allows the Allduns to live inside the castle — the only structure within the confines of the painting — while the Halfies and Sketchies have been relegated to living outside. The Allduns look down upon the Halfies, assuming that the painter has deemed them unworthy of completion. The Halfies are second class citizens in the world of the painting, living in constant fear that the Allduns’ prejudice will boil to a violent conclusion. The poor Sketchies are the bottom of the barrel. They seem to exist for the sole purpose of being hunted for sport by the Allduns, a practice that has fated the Sketchies to almost certain extinction.
Soon the narrative spins off to follow the surreal odyssey of Ramo the Alldun, Lola the Halfie, and Plume the Sketchie. Setting out to meet their creator, these three characters are able to see beyond the completeness of each other’s coloring while joining together for a singular goal. Like most of the characters of The Painting, Ramo, Lola and Plume are self-aware beings who are able to comprehend the boundaries of their specific universe. They seem to be coherently cognizant of the painter’s existence; that the painter created them and the world in which they exist. As their journey progresses, the comprehension of their existence expands well beyond that singular plane of understanding.
Digging deeper into existentialism than Toy Story, The Painting includes a lot of high-minded philosophical and theological discourse. Steering clear of the low brow jokes that riddle most of Disney and Pixar’s films nowadays, the profound discussions found within The Painting are fitting of the ivory towers of academia. Laguionie’s film might be seen a children’s film in style and tone alone; but if you do not mind your child questioning who created them and the purpose of their existence, then The Painting would be a really great place to begin their existential quest.