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Review: Living Large


- In her debut feature film, Czech director Kristina Dufková tells the story a bright teenager who’s grappling with an excess of kilos which is weighing heavily on his heart

Review: Living Large

Living Large [+see also:
interview: Kristina Dufková
film profile
, the animated stop motion movie and debut feature film by Czech director and illustrator Kristina Dufková, which has been presented in the Contrechamp Competition at the Annecy International Animation Film Festival, tells the story of Ben, a bright teenager with rapierlike wit who’s grappling with an excess of kilos which is weighing heavily on his heart… A heart in turmoil, ebullient with love for sweet Klara, which isn’t entirely reciprocated. Far from the usual clichés about overweight, quiet and insecure boys, Ben lives his life without worrying too much about the bullies who try to make his daily life increasingly difficult. His witty jokes, his band, his veterinary mum and his passion for food have always been enough to protect him from the nastiness of his less intelligent peers, that is until the arrival of the bewitching Klara who literally turns everything upside down.

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From the very first images of this film based on French author Mikaël Ollivier’s semi-autobiographical novel La vie, en gros, it’s really hard to not fall in love with Ben, with his unintentionally hipster look and his brilliant but always inoffensive jokes. His green glasses, his love for the many animals he lives with, and his ability to make everyone like him without ever being a sap, set him apart from everyone else. The director’s capacity to make Ben and the other protagonists’ emotions palpable is genuinely extraordinary. The reactions which we quite literally read on their faces practically render words superfluous.

Ben’s weight has never been a problem for him, until the school nurse warns him of the dangers he’s exposing himself to, if he doesn’t start a diet immediately. It’s at that point, at the height of a deadly serious crush, that something changes in him. It’s time for Ben to choose between his two all-consuming passions: his love of food and his feelings for Klara. Excess weight and the upheaval of first loves are the film’s central themes, but it’s ultimately Ben’s self-love which is the basis of the story. At a time in life when the reassuring world of childhood continually calls to us, enticing us away from the unknowns of adulthood, Ben is fighting to find his voice. Over and above the typical issues of adolescence, self-acceptance is a universal theme which can speak to young and old.

Obviously, not all goes to plan in Ben’s life, and at times it’s downright difficult to contend with inner torments which keep him up at night, but what’s important is that, at the end of his adventure, he’ll have learned something else about himself and about the (unexpected) strength residing within him. It’s thanks to the music which accompanies him throughout the film that Ben manages to reflect upon his unsettling feelings. The lyrics from his songs and the joy he feels at being with his musical friends provide him with a genuine escape. Above and beyond what others might expect from him, only the love he manages to feel for himself will help turn him into the adult he truly deserves to become.

Living Large is produced by Barletta (Czech Republic) in co-production with Novinski (Slovakia) and Novanima Productions (France), while Gebeka International are managing international sales.

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(Translated from Italian)

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