Ready to throw yourself into the abyss of The Spine of Night?
You know that feeling of thrill you get when your fingers slide down your back? Here, this film obviously pinched some of my chords.
I apologize if I refer to myself in the next few lines, but the peculiarity of the style of this film requires it to me.
Go with the intro!
In the room of the rotososcope, where reality becomes animation.
An Opera to fascinate them, an Opera to find them,
an Opera to unite them and chain them in the darkness of the hall,
In the rotoscope room, where reality becomes animation. "
The Spine of Night
The film tells the journey through the centuries of a magical blue flower (The Bloom), the last gift of the fallen gods, which gives terrible powers to those who use it. Over time this will be inspired and coveted by despots, the foundation stone of a bloody empire and the source of the darkest magic.
It's the witch Tzod which tells this story, with an articulated series of flashbacks intertwined with each other, al guardian the lonely keeper of the flower.
Screenplay, direction and technical features of The Spine of Night
The Spine of Night is an animated film, suitable for a mature audience, dark horror fantasy of 2021. Philip Gelatt and Morgan Galen King wrote and directed the film over a span of seven years!
The peculiarity of this film is precisely the technique with which it was shot, that is with the rotoscope. With this procedure, very popular in the late '70s and early' 80s, the designer traced the scenes based on a previously filmed film. The rendering of the human figures was thus very realistic.
In The Spine of Night, however, the drawings are computer animated, but always at 12 frames per second, as in the classic rotoscope animation.
Among the milestones of this type of film we remember Wizards (1977) The Lord of the Rings (1978), of which we have had the opportunity to speak (in this article e Thu), Fire and Ice - Fire and ice (1983) all by Ralph Bakshi e Heavy Metal (1981) by Gerald Potterton, inspired by the graphic power of Frank Frazetta's illustrations.
As for the music, the techno-rock soundtrack, while placing itself in the path traced by the Heavy Metal film, true inspiration of many record covers of the hard rock, heavy metal, epic metal scene of the 80s, renews and puts the foundations for a possible new cycle.
The Spine of Night: The Cast
The vocal cast is varied and there are some well-known "faces".
Lucy Lawless (Xena - Warrior Princess, Spartacus, Ash vs. Evil Dead, etc.) lends her voice to the witch Tzod.
Oscar nominee Richard E. Grant (Original Copy, Bram Stoker's Dracula, The Iron Lady, Hudson Hawk, Dispatches from Elsewhere, Loki, etc.) plays the Guardian.
Patton Oswalt (Ratatouille, Eternals, Agents of SHIELD, Happy !, The Sandman) is the bearer of the aspirations of Lord Pyrantin.
Joe Manganiello (Spider-Man, Magic Mike, Zack Snyder's Justice League, True Blood) fully unleashes Mongrel's violence and ruthlessness.
Analysis of The Spine of Night
The Spine of Night is a complex work in several respects.
First of all, why make animated films with such a technique of yesteryear to tell this story?
I think that in this case the medium is inextricably linked to the story being told and no other form could be used (live action, traditional animation, CGI). IMHO (In My Humble Opinions) is not a mere stylistic exercise, which cost the two authors a considerable investment out of their own pockets, aimed only at overturning the fantasy genre through modern sensibility, but the attempt, more or less successful, to analyze profound and absolute concepts and therefore possibly alienating. The medium is so "discordant" from the stylistic features to which we have been accustomed precisely because it fishes with both hands from a bottomless pit.
The world that Gelatt and Galen King have staged is a magical world, but it is easy to find parallels with ours. The different characters who take turns and take part in the events are archetypal (here we can make some notes on the level of writing that is not always up to par for all the characters, as well as the voices that in some cases "clash" with what they represent ), therefore universal, even a dark mirror of what we are.
The trend that is released throughout history is the spasmodic and terrible search for Power, a downward spiral made of Control, Overwhelm, Pride in the "presumed" Knowledge, Evil, Omnipotence. This Desire transfigures human beings into merciless abominations, a cancer that corrupts, waging wars and perpetrating violence at the expense of the weakest and defenseless, or those who simply live in balance with the world, to the point of hurting the planet itself and nature.
The Spine of Night: where to find it
The film before reaching distribution (released on March 24, 2022 on Shudder, a video on demand subscription service based on horror, thriller, supernatural and science fiction movies and TV series run by AMC Networks) was presented at various film festivals. Sitges, South by Southwest, Annecy International Animation, Neuchâtel International Fantastic and Fantasy Filmfest.
He also entered the shortlist of candidates for the Oscars for the best animated film of 2021, but did not pass the subsequent selection that he "awarded" the usual suspects...
The Spine of Night: conclusions
The Spine of Night, as already mentioned, is not a film suitable for all palates. Extreme violence, blood, guts, naked bodies, psychedelic visions, horror tints, can be a not indifferent stumbling block, which can be misunderstood as simple self-satisfaction. However, we have given a possible lens of interpretation, that is, that all that is shown, perhaps, is necessary to understand those dark sides, which we all have within us, whether we like it or not.
We are faced with a courageous work, which deviates from the somewhat imposed and standardized tastes of recent years, with the strong and marked impact of the style used, but The Spine of Night is not a completely successful work. Not all the characters are completely "gutted" and the story is a little too fragmented, also because there is no figure who is a real protagonist. The intentions and the potentials were all there, but the final yield is as if it were missing a quid which is lost in the staging of history… but what a great stage that has been built!
We hope that over time The Spine of Night will be re-evaluated and that the authors will grow and, perhaps one day, see other works related to it.