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GOCRITIC! Anifilm Liberec 2023

GoCritic! Review: Three Robbers and a Lion


- In Three Robbers and a Lion, Rasmus Svirtsen masterfully brings a beloved Norwegian children's story to life, showcasing the transformative power of kindness and love

GoCritic! Review: Three Robbers and a Lion
Kunstkamera by Jan Švankmajer

Set in the idyllic city of Cardamom, Rasmus Svirtsen’s Three Robbers and a Lion paints a picturesque world where the sun is always shining, and the people are always happy. But for three brothers, and a lion too, life is far from perfect. Their chaotic ways and their inability to conform to society's norms has made outcasts of them. Svirtsen's animated adaptation of Thorbjørn Egner's 1955 literary children’s classic delivers important and relevant messages for both children and adults alike. By reminding us that embracing those who are not like us and always showing love can solve most problems, the film takes a strong stance against the type of xenophobia that still endures today. Although the story's simplicity may suggest it is primarily for kids, it also explores fascinating ideas that resonate with grown-ups.

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When we first meet Casper, Jonathan, and Jasper, the three scruffy brothers who live on the outskirts of the fictitious town and engage in petty theft, they are seen quietly walking toward the city. First, we are presented with their feet, and then their hats, until we finally see them as a whole. They are approaching the vibrant and bustling town of Cardamom, their shabby appearances in stark contrast to the happy and content citizens we find there.

Drawn by the lively sounds and colorful sights of the fun fair held in the center of the town, the brothers climb atop a tree to get a better view, their faces lit up with childlike wonder and longing. Through this moving scene, we witness their painful exclusion from society, their desperate desire to be accepted and to belong, and their deep-seated yearning to one day be able to join the joyful throngs below. In a desperate bid to escape the turmoil of their home life, they hatch a plan to kidnap auntie Sofia, a domestic goddess, and to make her work for them. Their plan soon goes awry, and they find themselves facing a new set of challenges. And then there’s the kind and gentle lion they keep in order to protect their house and who’s always hungry.

Svirtsen does an excellent job of portraying the characters with nuance, creating sympathetic and relatable individuals, even with the film's vilest figures. The central message of the movie is that love and compassion can transform even the most hopeless of situations. The film encourages children to perform acts of kindness, but it also urges adults to be accepting towards those who may be different from themselves. The atmosphere shifts dramatically when a compassionate police inspector affectionately embraces the apprehended thieves, providing them with a comfortable incarceration environment, allowing them a refreshing bath and clean shave, and replacing punishment with empathy.

The film's music is integral to these dynamics, providing a seamless transition between scenes whilst enhancing the emotional impact of each moment. Likewise, the vibrant and luminous colors used throughout the film play a pivotal role in cultivating a pervasive sense of joy and blissful euphoria that infuses the entire mood of the film.  The 3D animation techniques used in the film are also impressive, with realistic visuals which are both charming and delightful. The masterful use of a blend of real background images and computer-generated imagery is a striking feature that enhances the emotional depth and complexity of the characters. Through this technique, we witness the subtle yet profound changes in the characters' emotions, such as their overwhelming embarrassment when receiving kindness, their shyness when shown appreciation, and their gradual transformation throughout the film. These emotional changes are brought to life with vivid clarity, making for a truly poignant and memorable viewing experience.

At only 68 minutes long, the film's concision is its strength. Every moment is filled with a sense of purpose, even though the story's simplicity does, at times, feel limiting. The abundance of characters in the story hinders the development of multi-layered personalities, leaving the former too superficial and under-explored. The film's predictable characters leave little room for surprises, making it easy to anticipate the direction in which the story will unfold. Svirtsen and his team make up for this, however, with their masterful use of animation, creating an immersive world where reality and fairy tales blend seamlessly.

Three Robbers and A Lion is produced by Qvinsten Animation and Copenhagen Bombay with the support of the European Union’s Creative Europe MEDIA programme.

International title Three Robbers and a Lion
Original title Folk og røvere i Kardemomme by
Country Norway
Sales agent Sola Media GmbH
Year 2022
Directed by Rasmus A. Sivertsen
Screenplay Karsten Fullu, Ingrid Haukelidsæter

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