Sunday, October 23, 2005

Claymation: The Corpse Bride

I recently took my mom to a showing of Tim Burton's Corpse Bride, at the Gateway Mall Cinemas in Araneta Center, Cubao. My mom had no idea what claymation was, but I knew the animation style and the storytelling would appeal to her. Earlier we had gone shopping for her birthday treats and for a friend's wedding gift at Rustan's. Naturally, we left the stuff in their package counter to be wrapped and went to enjoy the movie.

She knew Johnny Depp, from Chocolat. She knew Helena Bonham Carter, whom she first saw in Merchant Ivory's A Room With A View ("This actress looks like Joy! Look at that jawline!). But she knew it wasn't about the stars themselves, but their voice acting. In that respect, you would say Corpse Bride was a star-studded production. Other instantly recognizable cream-of-London-theater voices included those of Emily Watson, Richard E. Grant, the Absolutely Fabulous Joanna Lumley, and Albert Finney. Once my mom experienced the voice acting fleshed out in plasticine, shot in frame by meticulous frame, she was hooked.

The storyline of Corpse Bride is simple, loosely based on a Russian folk tale and set in the Victorian era. Reluctant working-class but materially prosperous Victor meets well-born but impoverished Victoria for the first time on their wedding night. He has trouble reciting his wedding vows, goes out on a winter night to practice them, and accidentally sticks the ring on a stick... which turns out to be the bony finger of our eponymous girl; to wit, "marrying" her. Emily was an innocent maiden mortally betrayed on the eve of her wedding by a dastardly fiancee. So Victor is sucked into an underworld of jazzy singing articulated skeletons, where he realizes that he is in love with the pure-hearted and very living Victoria. In the world above, Victoria's family thinks Victor has jilted their daughter and rush to marry her off to the sleazy Lord Barkis Bittern. The tale of Victor and Victoria's attempt to reunite in true love, and of the murdered Emily getting justice, is directed in prime Tim Burton style (see The Nightmare Before Christmas), and enhanced by the music of the very talented Danny Elfman.

Needless to say, my heart went out to Emily, the Corpse Bride. I don't know how they do the claymation of eyes welling with slow tears, but I am amazed by the attention given to details like that. My own eyes watered. My mom enjoyed herself utterly.

Definitely worth getting on DVD!