When a story is well told, it is very difficult to forget it. Usually, years can pass and memories of the narrative, however fragmented they may be, still roam our minds and transport us to a nostalgic moment in which nothing else existed but the pure involvement between the spectator and the film: it is for these and other reasons that ‘Coraline and the Secret World’ remains one of the best and darkest animations ever made, whose breadth of reach is not restricted to just a portion of the audience, but unravels its numerous ramifications and delights anyone who dares to watch it.
The plot revolves around a twelve-year-old girl who moves into a new house, in the middle of the countryside, which she shares with three other eccentric residents and some neighbors nothing but strange and disturbing. Feeling alone and abandoned by her parents, whose careers seem to be more important than nurturing their daughter’s natural neediness, she finds refuge in a secret world, hidden behind a small door in the living room, populated by beings with button eyes who They keep a terrible secret to themselves. In the case of an animated work, it is customary to fall into the idea that such films are intended for children; however, we must take into account that the story was engineered by none other than Neil Gaimanwhose flair for distortion and metaphysical enrichment of the simplest of narratives is undeniably frightening.
In other words, we are dealing with something much deeper than it appears, starting with the aesthetics: carried out entirely in stop-motion, the director Henry Selick delves deep into expressionist and impressionist aesthetics to bring Gaiman’s pages to life, opting for two color palettes that contradict each other and that reflect the main atmosphere of each of the dimensions: Coraline Jones (Dakota Fanning) remains in a state of constant melancholy, wandering the ramshackle corridors of the mansion and exploring whatever she can to keep herself busy. However, her real desires to spend more time with her family and even tending to the decaying garden in front of the mansion are overshadowed by her older ones, Mel (Teri Hatcher) e Charlie (John Hodgman), which try to push her to other tasks.
Our heroine, with her striking dark blue hair and egg-yellow raincoat, from the beginning shows an irreverent and outrageous personality: it is not for nothing that her characterization conflicts with the neutral colors of the real world ( light grey, white, black, brown and even a trend towards faded pink); she is an outsider and no one understands her, not even her same-aged neighbor, Wyborne “Wybie” Lovat (Robert Bailey Jr.), with whom he tries to create a relationship, but ends up only serving to irritate her even more in the face of all the problems they already have to face.
It’s no surprise that the discovery of this new universe, a more didactic and understandable offshoot of the upside-down theories and the multidimensionality of the cosmos, wins her over right away. Of course, starting from the complex of deified omnipotence, the Other Mother (also voiced by Hatcher, who does an incredible job and manages to create two totally different characters) architects it in the image and likeness of what Coraline already knows: the gardens, the others. residents, all soaked in the purest magic – which, here, serves as an addictive escape from stress and cruel reality. Despite the uncomfortable buttons for eyes, frightening from the first time the public sees them, who wouldn’t fall in love with a place where all dreams come true? And, in addition, we must remember the fact that the main character is a child helpless by his parents whom she suddenly finds all the affection she has always wanted.
A trap, so to speak, is what emerges as the narrative proceeds: not everything is wonderful; Gaiman, with his extensive creative background, knows very well that fairy tales and their moral lessons bring strong teachings to the reality we face – don’t accept anything from strangers, don’t talk to strangers, don’t follow the forest trail – and brings the fabulous tones for a mixture of fantastic fiction and drama, dressed up as the purest hero’s journey. Coraline is seduced and later realizes the consequences of her actions. She trusts those she shouldn’t – and even her real mom and dad come to pay the price, putting him on one last charge to save them and destroy the domains of the Other Mother, aka the Fair Lady.
The film is a mix of ‘Little Red Riding Hood’ com ‘John and Mary’, scrutinized with modernizations and acidic ironies typical of Gaiman. In spite of the childlike covering that softens the past events a little, the driving force of the narrative is the suspense, reaffirmed even by the stop-motion aesthetics. Everything is built with sumptuous curves, strange angles, following an essentially cathartic dialectic: the fluidity of the characters’ movement is obvious, but none of these connections between audience and film would be possible without the beautiful photographic and scenic work, which values purposeful Dutch angles and recurring patterns and techniques that take us back to the classic terrors of Alfred Hitchcock.
Selick also signs the script and makes a point of giving the necessary focus to each of the characters, including the incredible supporting characters. Whether in the forced drama of the Spink and Forcible sisters (voiced by Jennifer Saunders e Dawn French, respectively), or in the circus and paradoxical presence of Mr. Bobinsky (Ian McShane giving herself body and soul to one of the most memorable characters of her career), each one is extremely important to support the development and maturation of the protagonist, who, in the end, realizes how they were only trying to help her. to find your purpose.
‘Coraline and the Secret World’ it is an unforgettable animation that escapes from any genre conventionalism and is definitely not restricted to children. And, if that wasn’t enough, Gaiman’s troubled and genius mind not only allows us to fall in love with his work, but also throws us into a constant loop of plot twists, action, drama and the most acidic of comedies.