Exhibiting all the hallmarks of a Christmas classic which it is destined to become in the years to come, Klaus is amongst the most wonderful surprises to surface this festive season. A whimsical, wistful & wondrous delight that’s affectionately told & gorgeously animated, Netflix’s first animated feature is undeniably one of the finest films of 2019.
The story follows a rich, spoiled brat who’s stationed as a postman on an island just above the Arctic Circle by his father with a task he must accomplish if he is to inherit the family’s wealth. Stuck on the island with feuding locals who don’t even exchange words, he forms an unlikely alliance with a reclusive toymaker that sparks a change in the cold, dark town.
Written & directed by Sergio Pablos in what’s his directorial debut, Klaus marks the arrival of a new animation studio in the arena, and is by all means a promising start to its filmmaking endeavours. Going old-school when it comes to animation, the film employs traditional hand-drawn technique and the wizardry it conjures on the canvas is what gives its frames their unique look.
What’s even more commendable about it is that despite the groundbreaking animation on display, it’s the story & characters that take precedence. It is an exquisitely imagined & masterly narrated fable that makes excellent use of its heartwarming premise & full-fledged characters, and is cleverly witted from start to finish. In a place filled with hate, it shows what an act of kindness can inspire.
Everything about the film works. The frozen, faraway island provides the right setting for the myth to originate from. And the way its cold palette slowly transition to warmer tones as hatred thaws & kindness blooms is mesmerising to watch. All the legend about the famous guy is in the picture yet it is presented with an interesting spin that fits. And further richness is provided by top-notch vocal performances.
The film is all jolly & joyful on surface but the themes it addresses has a lot to say about the world we live in today, about how hatred is passed down generations in the name of tradition. Children are born with the capacity to love, share & interact. Hatred & prejudice, on the other hand, is taught. The film also remarks that there will always be few who would rather continue this cycle of violence than live together in harmony.
Going back to the traditional animation, the images surely have a nostalgic, handcrafted feel but they also exhibit polished textures & sophisticated lighting techniques that one encounters in computer animation. The backdrop is as alive & vivid here as characters in forefront, and the sharp, skilful camerawork adds more vibrancy to the final print. All scenes are accounted for, pacing is precise, and its touching music effortlessly stirs our soul.
On an overall scale, Klaus is no less than a Christmas miracle, for its simple, sincere storytelling is as impressive & accomplished as its first-rate animation. A beautifully evocative & emotionally resonant tale of goodwill & compassion that’s sprinkled with healthy dose of heart & humour and enveloped with magical flair, SPA Studios’ first foray into feature filmmaking is a hilarious, heartfelt & joyous celebration of everything that brings us together. Arguably the best animated film of the year, Klaus comes merrily recommended.