Wednesday, 20 January 2016

World Cinema Film Review- Austrailia: Mary and Max (2009)

Figure 1- Poster

Written and directed by Adam Elliot, Mary and Max is an Australian stop-motion animated film about two pen pals from different countries. The film was made using stop-motion animation, using clay as the main material for modelling. The plot follows two people who come into contact with each other through letter writing. Mary, a young Australian girl, picks an address out of a phone book at random, then proceeds to write a letter to that address. The letter Mary writes asks where do babies come from? And it is received by Max, a middle-aged man from New York. At first he suffers a panic attack from the shock of receiving this letter, but then eventually goes on to write a response. The story moves on from there, following the two as they grow older and stay in touch through their letters. They become close friends despite the fact that they have never met.

 Figure 2- Max

One of the most memorable aspects of this film are the characters. The script has very detailed dialogue, which gives the audience a very clear picture of the character's lives and personalities. On top of the dialogue, the physical design of these animated characters are designed in a very bold way. This makes the character's facial expressions very strong and recognisable, something very typical of a cartoon made for children. Using character design to create a child orientated image for the film, creates a juxtaposition against the dark, adult story line behind the film. 

 Figure 3- Mary

The film's story revolves around the theme of mental conditions. Max is a man who has aspergers syndrome. This mental condition makes it hard for Max to understand other people, as aspergers tends to effect the ability to read body language. This has caused Max to become an isolated person as he does not fair well when speaking to new people. However when Max receives Mary's letters, he found it quite a simple task to reply (once he overcomes the panic attack) as Mary's words are written down, not spoken. Max can communicate with Mary because he does not have to meet her in person. Another factor that goes into Mary being a good pen pal, is the fact that she is a child. At her age she is naive when it comes to socializing, and as a child, she tends to speak her mind making it very easy and direct to understand her.

Figure 4- Max

The use of environment design in this film is centred a lot of the perspectives of the characters. The two characters have different sets that are suited to their lifestyles and personalities. Max's main environment is in his flat in New York city. His scenes in the film are in black and white, with only a few colours showing. At first glance this filter gives the atmosphere of depression, showing how dull and isolated Max is in his flat. However there could be another reason as to why Max's scenes are drained from colour. As Max has aspergers syndrome, it means he sees the world in a very logical way. He finds it easier to understand something if it's there for a reason. One could say that Max sees the world in black and white, and so the environment he lives in is deliberately coloured in this way. This allows the audience to see the world in a symbolic interpretation of how Max sees the world. 

In Mary's scenes, the colour schemes are quite similar, except her world is in sepia, with more colours standing out. The base colour of Mary's environments are shades of brown. This may reflect on Mary's eye colour and birth mark. Even though there are more colours in Mary's scenes, it still resembles the backdrop Max has in New York. This is to show how Mary also finds it difficult to understand people, however this may be down to her being a child, at the age when she is still learning.

Overall this film was a powerful and extremely detailed piece of animation, that rivals live action dramas, despite being completely animated. The use of text coupled with the cartoon style characters, portrayed a powerful narrative that followed along the themes of  friendship, metal welfare and depression. 

Illustration List

Figure 1- Poster:
Figure 2- Max:
Figure 3- Mary:
Figure 4- Max:

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