Saturday 6 October 2018

A Walk in the Woods (Hugo Frassetto, 2017)

This cheerful Belgian co-production screens on the 20th of October as part of the London Film Festival's Animated Shorts for Younger Audiences, and although it's not among the strongest efforts on show in that excellent programme, it's the sort of thing that should go down well with the youngest of viewers.  That said, it seems rather strange that a film aimed at very young children will play at the LFF in a subtitled version, as some tiny tots' reading skills - assuming they're in place to begin with - will be given quite a workout here.  While it's good that the collection of shorts includes a mix of both dubbed and subbed fare (and yes, I know that essentially all animated films are dubbed), it seems slightly unfortunate that A Walk in the Woods, out of all the films on offer, is one of the handful that will screen in their original language with English subtitles.

The simple story sees a quintet of young wolves having fun in the woods.  Each cub wears the mask of an animal; all the masks are different, and, as you might reasonably expect, none are of wolves.  These disguises are a neat touch, and their effectiveness is twofold: they tap into the wide perception of wolves being duplicitous and, equally importantly, present us with the endearingly absurd spectacle of animals pretending to be other creatures.  There's nothing nefarious about these cute little ones, however, and they're completely preoccupied with playfully taunting their dad, continually checking on his status as they hunt for suitable hiding places.  Oh, and did I mention that the main mode of communication is song?  It's all quite charming, even if older children won't find too much to get their teeth into here. 

Repetition and rhythm are both strong features of A Walk in the Woods, and as such it all seems very predictable, yet the film takes a huge, unexpected leap late on as it suddenly moves into a completely different animation style.  While this is initially quite jarring, the coda plays out very nicely, and it's oddly satisfying to have your expectations turned upside down in this manner.  One way or another, wolves always seem to know how to surprise us.

Darren Arnold

Images: Studio Wasia