Our review of Mavka and the enchanted forest, a Ukrainian animated film in theaters since 20 April 2023 which talks about love and environmentalism.
Certainly one of the most anticipated titles of this year by fans, Mavka and the Enchanted Forest it’s a animated film created by Animagrad Studio, a Ukrainian animation studio that over the years has been trying to establish itself more and more on the international market by offering animations, in 2D and 3D, of increasing quality over time. Distributed in Italian cinemas from 20 April 2023 thanks to Notorius Pictures, it is a work by directors Oleksandra Ruban and Oleg Malamuzh which aims to tell not only a story of love and environmentalism, but above all a piece of Ukrainian folklore, a captivating natural world and magical, full of fantastic, funny and beautiful creatures.
Inspired by a classic poem by the poet Lesya Ukrainka, it immerses the viewer in a luxuriant and fragile setting, trying to create wonder especially in the eyes of the little ones, without however disdaining a more adult and current morality that is impossible not to adopt in a historical moment where war conflicts and the climate crisis are more pressing and worrying than ever. In our review of Mavka and the Enchanted Forest we will therefore try to highlight the themes, the technical aspects and the peculiarities that characterize the narration of a long-awaited and important film for various aspects, a work that is certainly not perfect but should not be underestimated.
Nature and love in the plot
The Ukrainian forests they are mysterious places that have always kept incredible secrets. Mythological creatures and forest spirits preserve them from human intervention, regulating and guaranteeing, at the same time, the seasonal phases that allow nature to flourish in harmony. It is in this scenario that the events narrated take place: Mavka is a kind and curious soul of the forest who has the task of awakening plants and animals from their winter slumber. On the other side of the mountain, however, live humans, feared enemies of this place because in the past they tried to take possession of the source of life that flows at the base of a sacred tree. Among them is Lucas, a young blacksmith and aspiring musician who, on behalf of the evil Kylina, agrees to go look for the miraculous tree in the forbidden territory of the forest; there he meets Mavka and the spark immediately strikes between the two. Will two such different beings be able to restore peace between humans and the people of the forest? Of course, we leave the rest to you to discover.
Back to the Disney Renaissance
We won’t reveal anything else about the plot so as not to spoil your vision, but what we can do is tell you a little about the type of narration of Mavka and the Enchanted Forest. The structure of the story itself is very simple: we have a boy and a girl who meet, like each other and who will have to face various cultural and ideological difficulties to fulfill their dream of love. A rather common archetype that has given us hundreds of stories over the centuries, but which here joins the folklore of a land of which we know too little, and which, precisely for this reason, is immediately captivating and interesting.
However, this type of structure suffers from being excessively abused over the years by one of the most important animation majors, the Disneywhich especially in the nineties, a period known as Disney Renaissance, has accustomed us to contrasted love stories but with happy endings, full of musical moments and singing characters, all as opposed to the (or) villain of the moment. This also happens in the Animagrad Studio film: a love story told in a somewhat old-fashioned way and some sporadic musical moments forcefully take us back to those years, as if time had not passed.
The importance of morals
The characters are also at the expense, not very detailed and victims of more than one stereotype that we hoped to have left behind. Overall, however, the story works, enthralling the viewer who can recognize many extremely contemporary themes in it: the fear of war, the need to preserve the natural beauty of the area and therefore nature itself, are by far the predominant ones. Greed leads us human beings to exploit more and more resources in a blind race for self-destruction that only generates conflicts, a war that, like all wars, never leads to an absolute winner. This is the true moral of a work which, despite its flaws, manages to speak of peace like few others, in a simple, spontaneous but true way, making the message understandable to viewers of any age.
Un character design vincente
However, the moral is not the only strong point of this film. From the first images to strike the viewer is the character design of the characters: captivating and colorful, it manages to perfectly embody the spirit of the work. So we see nymphs with sinuous and ethereal bodies pulling out frightening sharp teeth, funny and stocky forest creatures fighting agile in need. The best work, however, was done right on Mavka character.
To convey the idea of the protagonist’s profound communion with the surrounding environment, it was decided to make her features dynamic: her hair, eyes and clothes, in fact, change color depending on her mood and the atmosphere of the surrounding environment. She also represents the forest with her image of her, a purely visual ploy which however acts as a window onto the protagonist’s soul. Net of some flaws on the fluidity of the animations, we can therefore say that Mavka and the enchanted forest is a good international business card for a promising animation studio that we hope will offer us other interesting productions in the future.
To summarize our review of Mavka and the enchanted forest we can say that the film from the Ukrainian animation studio is certainly an interesting work. While lingering on a somewhat dated narrative, it manages to conquer the viewer with the excellent character design and contemporary themes that are able to involve regardless of the age of the beholder.
Because we like it
- The representation of folklore.
- The character design and graphic style of characters and stories.
- The topics that are treated in a simple and effective way.
- The construction of the narration: not very contemporary.
- The animations are not always smooth.