The Tale of Tales (Yuri Norstein, 1979, USSR)

The Tale of Tales (1979) is the most well-known film by Russian animator Yuri Norstein. Norstein's career began in the 1960s, and he has often worked with his wife Francheska Yarbusova, a fellow animator. Norstein has become world-renowned for his particular animation style, which involves layering multiple glass panes and filming them from above to give a three-dimensional look. This process takes a long time and has impacted the director's career. Norstein has been working since the 1980s on an adaptation of Gogol's Overcoat. Unsurprisingly, the director was fired in 1985 from the Russian animation studio Soyuzmultfilm for taking too long to complete this project, which had only generated 10 minutes of footage in 2 years of work.

The Tale of Tales is an autobiographical work for Norstein, that draws many parallels with Andrei Tarkovsky's masterful The Mirror (1975), another film that explores an upbringing and Russian history through the fog of memory. The film is composed of several different sequences and relies heavily on symbols: a little grey wolf, a little girl and a bull, a little boy and crows, a dancer, and soldiers. One clear theme running through the film is the presence of soldiers, and losses on the Eastern Front during World War II can be felt. The film uses an amazing sound palette that fuses organic sounds, along with poetry and music. The music ranges from classical, such as Bach and Mozart, to music from the World War II-era - a Russian version of the famous Polish tango "To Ostatni Niedziela". There is also a lullaby that surfaces throughout the film. It is easy to see why this film was voted as the best animation of all time in multiple surveys. We are curious here to view more of Norstein's work, as he is a masterful animator.



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