Blood Tea and Red String [US 2006]

Info: I embedded the full movie below.

THE PLOT

Blood Tea and Red String is a stop motion animation movie about bird-like animals that live in a tree and, after a group of mice have stolen their self-made doll, embark on a journey to find it. Along their journey, they encounter a labyrinth with poisonous fruit, a frog magician, and a menacing spider. However, the mice also discover something mysterious about the doll. The movie features short live action beginning and ending scenes (in which a masked woman introduces an egg as the central element of the plot), however, the main narrative about the journey of the birds is completely animated. In addition, there is no conventional dialogue, as only squeaking or cooing is heard, which means, that the viewer must interpret the scenes on his/her own.

 

WHAT I LIKE

Generally, this is a well-made animated movie with a great amount of details, e.g. when the birds prepare the doll. The mostly small sets are efficiently crafted (e.g., the treehouse or the woods) and the movie uses the colors red and white in a clever way, e.g. when juxtaposing the mice with the birds or when focusing on the doll. The score is minimalistic, but the few pieces of flute music are simply haunting and help to create a dark and atmospheric environment. Considering the movie was made on a small budget, it can ultimately be regarded as a stunning achievement for writer-director Christiane Cegavske.

WHAT I DON’T LIKE

There are some minor hiccups regarding animation quality and pacing, as sometimes group movements look choppy and the narrative is generally slow. Because sometimes trivial actions are stretched out (e.g., when the birds are rescued from the labyrinth), the otherwise short runtime of about 71 minutes feels much longer. In the context of the movie, these scenes often contribute to the overall fantastical atmosphere but there are certain elements that could have easily been trimmed (e.g., when the birds eat at the frog’s hut). Although the following is no drawback, it still needs to be mentioned that the movie is thematically aimed at a mature audience – whereas animated movies in general are often also for younger audiences. Images like creepy white mice playing cards with a terrifying puppet while drinking blood are rather disturbing (for children), as are the near-omnipresent symbols of death and the encounter with the spider.

THE VERDICT

Blood Tea and Red String is a dark fairy tale realized through stop motion animation and featuring a high degree of symbolism. The latter makes for an interesting and unique viewing and can be compared to surreal films like Eraserhead [1977] or Un chien andalou [1929]. Although the plot is enigmatic and rather superficial at times, the animation is solid, and the many details are wonderful to watch. Considering this was all done by one woman on a low budget, Blood Tea and Red String is a truly remarkable and haunting experience.

Overall 7/10

 

INTERESTING FACTS

– Writer-director, Christiane Cegavske, is one of the few female directors to take sole credit for a full-length stop motion animated movie. As of 2020, the only other women who achieved this are Lotte Reininger (Adventures of Prince Achmed, 1926), Tatia Rosenthal ($9.,99, 2008), and Ideya Garanina (The Cat Who Walked by Herself, 1988).

– The ending credits close with the following quote: “Blood and water round and round beneath my skin and underground”. As with the other symbols and metaphors in the movie, Cegavske has since refused to explain her vision to the audience.

– After having been in production for 13 years, the movie was finally released in 2006. Although it was planned as the first part of a trilogy, no other parts have been announced as of 2020.

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