Mathias Malzieu, of the French-Victorian-Dark-Cabaret group, Dionysos not only wrote a beautiful book called “La Mécanique du cœur” (translated to “the mechanics of the heart“) but he paired up with illustrator Nicoletta Ceccoli to turn his book into the most beautiful animated movie I have ever seen. Ever.
Set in the 1800’s (with dark, Gothic animation easily resembling Tim Burton‘s dreamworld but is also completely original), the story begins on the coldest day on Earth as a pregnant young woman makes her way to the home of a midwife. After she gives birth to Jack, a boy who’s heart is frozen solid, Madeleine, the creatively odd midwife, fixes him up with a heart made out of a cuckoo clock. (There are other characters in the movie who have been “fixed up” by Madeleine with just-as-creative “parts”. Have you ever seen a spine made out of a xylophone?) Knowing she would never be able to care for him, the mother leaves her newborn with the midwife, who loves + raises Jack as her own.
On his 10th birthday, Madeline takes Jack into town to go exploring for the first time in his life. Before their venture, she reminds Jack of the three golden rules he must obey due to his fragile heart:
1 Never touch the hands of the clock
2 Control your anger and
3 (the most important rule) Never ever fall in love
While in town, Jack meets the lovely Miss Acacia and of course, begins to fall in love. Over the course of the movie, we are introduced to an array of bewitching + colorful characters (like Joe the rapping (yes RAPPING!) Bully and a two-headed whimsical lady with wings as well as cinematographer, Georges), settings (the entire circus is a visual feast) and songs while Jack discovers the true meaning of love. Based on a concept album by the French rock band, the film’s music was entirely composed by Dionysos. My favorite songs are without a doubt “Flamme A Lunettes (All I See Are Stars)” and “La Berceuse Hip Hop du Docteur Madeleine (Madeleine’s Hip Hop Lullaby)” as well as the main theme song for the movie.
Here I am being a total nerd and singing along with “All I See Are Stars“.
Now keep in mind, this IS a foreign film and while sometimes the translations fall a little flat, it never takes away from the overall beauty of this movie. On top of its visual beauty that resembles a children’s book brought to life, there are 2 important life lessons to take away:
1 “If you spend your life avoiding getting hurt, you’ll probably die of boredom first.”
No one wants to get hurt in this world, especially in matters of the heart but how will you ever feel ANYTHING if you shy away from other people and don’t step outside your comfort zone?
2 “Your difference is your strength… it makes you special. Make the most of your difference.”
Embrace your own weirdness and individuality; its what makes YOU who you are. Our differences from one another is what make us unique.
I give this movie a 10/10. I could watch it everyday and would fall in love with it every single time. Its magical, artistic charm + childlike wonder while tackling “adult” subjects such as love + death is what makes this movie so special and extraordinary. I wish there were more of Malzieu’s creations in the world.
“All I see are stars, Suddenly some days,
My eyes lead me astray, Faraway down the street
Until I can’t bear to steal, A glance at the sun
Or even look the sky straight in the eye
All I see are stars…”