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Arts & Culture

Fear(s) of the Dark

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The multiple stories in Fear(s) of the Dark are connected only by their theme not by any characters or narratives. Some segments get to play out in a straightforward manner while others are chopped up and interspersed through the film. In one running gag interspersed through the film, a woman -- who sounds like she's lying on a psychiatrist's couch -- rambles on about all the things great and small that scare her. She pays special attention to all the horrible ways she could die and suggests being tortured would be worse than dying during sex.

Among the longer tales is one involving a young man's obsessions with bugs and women that leads to some terrifying consequences. Another involves a young girl's nightmares and the doctor who wants her to confront them. And in the best segment a man is trapped in a darkened house where terror lurks in every shadow. This segment is so simple yet so elegantly and cleverly rendered in very stark, bold black and white. Although all the segments are in black and white with occasional splashes of color, their visual styles are very diverse. In contrast to the bold lines of the man in the house is one where the animation looks like a jittery Victorian etching pulsating with thousands of nervous pencil lines. The style is well-suited to the vicious and skinny aristocrat who keeps letting his dogs attack innocent victims.

One of the diverse animation styles on display in France's animated omnibus Fear(s) of the Dark (IFC)

The omnibus structure inevitably delivers a mix of work. Some of the segments are less successful than others, but some, like the revamping of the haunted house formula, are stunningly effective. All in all Fear(s) of the Dark (in French with English subtitles) is definitely worth seeing if only because it looks and sounds so different from Hollywood animation, and is willing to explore such a different topic.

Companion viewing: Renaissance, Fantastic Planet, Persepolis

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