Thursday, March 10, 2022

The Girl Without Hands, on

This fairy tale might represent the Brothers Grimm at their darkest and most satanic, which is saying something. It also ends with a happily-ever-after, but not for everyone—and those who do, will have to go through an awful lot to get there. First, the unfortunate girl of the title must bear the physical brunt of her father’s Faustian bargain in Sebastien Laudenbach’s The Girl Without Hands, which premieres tomorrow on

The Miller was so desperately poor, his hunger made him easy prey for the Devil. Appearing as an old wanderer, he offered the man riches in exchange for what was behind his mill. The unhappy man was only thinking of the apple tree, but his daughter happened to be climbing it at the time. Of course, once the Miller had a taste for riches, he was not about to back out of the deal.

Yet, the Devil is constantly stymied by the Girl’s virtue. First, he has the greedy father cut off her hands, because they were touched by her tears of purity. Yep, super soothing bedtime story. When he still cannot take possession of her, he allows her out into the world, so he can prey on her through his deceitful magic.

Single-handedly animated by Laudenbach,
Girl Without Hands is stunningly elegant to behold. Stylistically, it could be the closest thing to an original feature animated by Matisse. However, the abstractness of the characters’ features can be a little distancing.

Nevertheless, Laudenbach’s animation is truly a work of art and there is something about it that really expresses the archetypal essence of the Grimm fairy tale. This is about as sophisticated as animation gets. Yet, it also emphasizes the sinister, supernatural flavor of the Brothers Grimm.

Regardless, this really is a triumph for Laudenbach. In addition to his striking pastel-like animation, he also gives an eerily idiosyncratic voice to the Devil. By far, his is the most memorable voice performance, but there really isn’t much talking anyway.
Girl Without Hands is a quiet film, featuring a classy but not particularly distinctive soundtrack.

Fans of elevated animation really ought to check out
Girl Without Hands. In terms of artistry, it compares to films like The Red Turtle and thematically, it shares some kinship with Belladonna of Sadness. Highly recommended, it starts streaming tomorrow (3/11) on