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The Book Of Life

Both the young Mariachi Manolo and his best friend, the folk hero Joaquin woo for the hand of the self-confident Maria. The winner decides who is going to rule the kingdom of the dead: the colourful goddess La Muerta or the devious Xibalba.

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Like classic animation films it’s a bit of a shame that the digital versions only limit themselves to the most possible approximation to reality. It seems even more enjoyable when a film takes a different path. THE BOOK OF LIFE turns the Mexican “Day of the Dead” into a colourful and imaginative animation story and gives children a glimpse of animation beyond Pixar and Disney. You don’t see people or humanized animals but instead digitally detailed imagery of wooden figures.
The story focuses on a romantic triangle: the Mariachi Manolo, the disappointing scion of the Torero dynasty, and a decorated military hero, Joaquin, both vying for the attention of the same girl, the confident Maria. The love conflict has a different dimension: each young man is backed by a different deity and the ‘winner’ of Maria’s heart will decide who has the say in the kingdom of death: the kind goddess La Muerta or the devious Dämon Xibalba.
THE BOOK OF LIFE is worth watching not just for its lovely visuals, but the fact that women are not presented simply as a passive love interest. Maria is no shrinking violet. She has a mind of her own and weighs her own decisions to free herself of the constraints of family tradition. Not such a bad message for the film’s junior audience. Just for a moment it seems as though the film even points to a utopia of transcending coupledom. Convention wins but the idea lingers long enough to be seen as subversive. Nice.

Thomas Groh

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ALLE ANGABEN OHNE GEWÄHR.
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