Friday, December 10, 2021

Even Mice Belong in Heaven: An Animated Czech Fable

Heaven--its not just for dogs anymore. All animals go there, but this isn’t exactly a paradise with 72 virgins. It is more like an afterlife in the tradition of What Dreams May Come. It can actually be a pretty scary place, but Whizzy the mouse might have a friend to go through it with, if they can get past their earthly history as prey and predator in Jan Bubenicek & Denisa Grimmova’s Even Mice Belong in Heaven, which releases today on VOD.

Whizzy is a bit of a scaredy-cat, but she tries to over-compensate by bluffing and showing off. It is not her fault. She still has lingering trauma from her father’s death. Ironically, he became a hero to the mice, by saving her from a fox. She feels compelled to repeat his heroics, by picking a fight with Whitebelly, a shy, stuttering young fox. Unfortunately, when he gives chase, they both end up flattened by a car.

Right, this might not be such a good film for kids, since the cute, furry main characters literally die in the first ten minutes. It really is more of an adult beast-fable, sort of in the tradition of
Watership Down and Plague Dogs. However, the animation style definitely signals viewers to expect something cuter and lighter.

Regardless, the evolution of Whizzy’s post-mortem relationship with Whitebelly is quite touching. Whizzy can be more than a little annoying and self-centered, but death tends to be quite a learning experience. Whitebelly also has a dramatic arc in store for himself, but by accepting each other, they can overcome the hang-ups that held them back in life. At least that is what Heaven is trying to teach, if they would only pay attention.

Ultimately, there is something very wise and inherently logical about the way the story unfolds. Most importantly, it is also quite hopeful. Alice Nellis (with Richard Malatinsky) adapted a young adult novel written by Czech writer Iva Prochazhova, whose early studies and publication attempts were stymied by Communist regime. Although
Even Mice is not inherently political, we can well imagine how themes of karma and rebirth would resonate for her.

The combination of stop-motion and computer animation is lively and certainly evokes a fairy tale vibe. It would pair up well with Eva Cvijanovic’s short film
Hedgehog’s Home, but Bubenicek & Grimmova’s feature is probably even more richly detailed and textured. (Still, parents need to remember animals die in this film). Recommended for fans of beast tale fantasies (a la Redwall), Even Mice Belong in Heaven releases today (12/10) on VOD.