Wednesday 15 June 2022

Luce en de rots (Britt Raes, 2022)

In less than three months' time, this incarnation of Holland Focus will reach its fifth anniversary, and one of the very first films to be featured on the site was Britt Raes' Catherine; if you haven't already seen it, this excellent, moving short can be viewed in its entirety—and for free—by clicking here.  When it was reviewed here, Catherine was screening as part of the 2017 London Film Festival, which also featured Daan Bakker's portmanteau movie Quality Time; Bakker's film was scored by Bram Meindersma, who composed the wonderfully atmospheric music for Britt Raes' new film, Luce and the Rock (Luce en de rots).  Meindersma can do more than just compose, however: he's also responsible for Luce and the Rock's sound design, and he voiced the main character in what was Quality Time's first, best and funniest segment.

In addition to the presence of Meindersma, Luce and the Rock also features a credit for Imge Özbilge, whose fine short #21XOXO was chosen for the 2019 London Film Festival; for a small rental fee, you can view Özbilge's film here.  With any luck, Luce and the Rock will be among the selections for the 2022 London Film Festival, but it has already screened at this year's Berlinale—where it played as part of the Generations strand and received a special mention—as well as enjoying an outing at Brussels' Anima festival, where it picked up the Best Belgian Short Film award.  Luce and the Rock is virtually the same length as Catherine, and as such it has some versatility: it could either work as part of a larger programme of shorts, or play before a feature film—as was the case when Catherine screened with Michel Ocelot's Ivan Tsarevitch and the Changing Princess.

Luce and the Rock begins with the girl of the title living a happy, tranquil life in the small village where she resides with her mother.  There are a number of other equally happy villagers, all of whom enjoy life in their cute little houses.  There's little for anyone in the village to worry about, and the biggest inconvenience for Luce is that she's not too fond of the dark; thankfully, a glowstick is always on hand to help Luce get through the nights.  The villagers' idyll is suddenly shattered when a gigantic rock creature quite literally rolls into town, in the process reducing most of the little blue homes to rubble.  Naturally, nobody is very pleased with this development, and the uninvited guest soon becomes a target of the villagers' anger; it doesn't help matters that the creature oozes an unappealing yellow gloop.  While Luce is just as annoyed as the rest of the village's population, her stance softens once she spends some time with this maladroit but charming visitor.

Like its predecessor, Luce and the Rock features both top-drawer animation and a useful message, with its title characters' interactions illustrating how friendships can blossom despite—ahem—rocky beginnings; the film also makes a valuable point regarding inclusivity, and how differences need not form a barrier to getting along with others.  Luce and the Rock greatly benefits from Britt Raes' terrific use of colour, which lends a real warmth to both the characters and their settings, and it's a real pity when our time in this magical world comes to an end; there's a lot packed into the 13 minutes, and it's likely that the film will withstand repeated viewings.  Catherine was always going to be a tough film to follow, but Luce and the Rock is a very worthy successor to that superb feline-themed film; let's hope we don't have to wait another five years to find out what Britt Raes does next. 

Darren Arnold