Directed by Anders Rønnow-Klarlund, with the voices of James McAvoy, Catherine McCormack, Julian Glover, Derek Jacobi, Ian Hart, Claire Skinner, David Harewood and Samantha Bond.
Anders Rønnow-Klarlund made his directorial debut with 'The Eighteens' in 1996. 'Strings' is his third feature film which showcases this ambitious young director's talent, diversity and originality.
'Strings' is a dark, mythological tale in a world "tied by hate, bound by love". The marionettes capture human life; their strings are their soul, their life, their breath and their music. They themselves understand the essence of these strings, which work on many levels.
The King (Glover) kills himself and in a farewell letter gives his son Prince Hal Tara (McAvoy) the Throne, hoping that Hal will accomplish what he never could - peace and justice. But the King's evil brother (Jacobi) blames an enemy for murdering his beloved brother. Hal Tara is persuaded to go into battle to avenge his father's death. During his journey, he falls in love but also learns of the terrible hidden acts that his father committed.
This is a moving tale. It is powerful, emotive and the first time that poignancy has been part of the puppet world. The story may have been told a thousand times before but the real victory of the film is in its telling.
"Strings in heaven. Myself on earth". It's an exceptional metaphor. 'Strings' shows intangible bonds tangibly. "Look up. Can you see where you end? I end where you begin, in that way we are all connected." These are threads of destiny that play beautiful music in heaven at times of death but also at times of birth. We see beauty in the sacrosanct birth - a father carves a lifeless child and, when the time is right, strings from heaven connect the body to life.
But it also shows a dark world of evil, of rape and murder. A world where the strings of slaves are robbed by the powerful. A world where a prison grid physically confines strings but cannot break bonds. And we see a battle scene where puppets fight with a gusto that leaves strings burning all the way to heaven.
The puppets have no facial movement, only their eyes move, but still their emotion seeps through. They whisper, they laugh, gasp, feel, cry. They are human only that they are made of wood. They embody life and blur the division of animation and the real world.
The voices are compelling and so powerful. Hal's voice is more powerful than 'The Lion King's Simba and more moving than any of the roars of the warriors portrayed in recent films. It makes you quiver, just as their own strings "quiver with love". Powerful, emotive classical string music resonates throughout the film.
If puppets gave dimension to animated films, 'Strings' adds life, passion-filled life. It works. 'Strings' is a tale too dark for children, but can be appreciated by everyone else. It's a must see. A puppetry masterpiece, a metaphorical triumph.