21 December 2020

Klaus 

A spoiler-freefilm review

Sergio Pablos’ Klaus follows Jesper, an over-privileged and selfish postal worker trying to earn his way back home after being sent to the northern town of Smeerensburg, “the unhappiest place on Earth”, whose inhabitants are locked in a generational feud. With hope of establishing a working postal office fading, Jesper encounters the mysterious woodsman Klaus, and his cabin full of hand-crafted toys… perhaps things might just work out after all.

It would be impossible to review this film properly without gushing over how beautiful it is. It stands as a monument to, and a triumphant return for 2D animation, something that has been missing in films of late, with a few notable exceptions. The hand-drawn quality of the artistry works to combine the nostalgia of our childhood classics, whilst reinvigorating them with new technologies. Using techniques that are usually reserved for 3D animations, such as volumetric lighting, give the film its unique aesthetic, as if a children’s storybook had come to life. It’s simply gorgeous, and many of the frames within the film I would happily hang on my wall.

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Consequently, the warmth of a fireplace feels incredibly real, and beyond mere aesthetics, this art style fully conveys the emotions of everything throughout the film, from the town and its inhabitants, to the Jesper, Klaus and the Sámi. The joy you witness from the child receiving his toy frog - I found myself experiencing first-hand, filled with the same unbridled joy and happiness, with a wide smile plastered over my face. It’s delightful to see films that take these risks, such as Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse and The Bears’ Famous Invasion of Sicily, and push back against the now-standardised CG animation, only to be rewarded for their efforts. It renews hope that we might see ever-more of this exquisite medium.

The exaggerated borderline-caricature character and set designs are equally brilliant, and add so much character and atmosphere to the town and its inhabitants. The art style somehow lends itself wonderfully in conveying unhappiness and despair as well as hope and joy throughout the course of the film. Klaus’ larger-than-life persona is realised well here, and I love how they grounded the lore in reality before subverting it into its fully realised Christmas magic.

The aesthetics of the Sámi are equally well portrayed. The art style and bold colours allow Pablos and the creative team to fully realise their culture, especially vibrant within the snowy confines of the northern tundra. The representation of their culture, beyond aestheticism, also pleasantly surprised me within the film. They are portrayed as they are, speaking their own language and wearing their traditional garments. I really appreciated that whilst speaking their indigenous language, Western culture isn’t superimposed by way of subtitles. This is their language, their way of life. Their representation isn’t here for us, it’s for them, and I think that’s great. Aside from their language, the Sámi also serve to reinforce the core message of the film, that kindness is contagious. In their role as benefactors of kindness and warmth, the Sámi are shown to be a generous and kind-hearted people, with Margu helping not only Jesper become a better man, but the whole community helping Klaus, and by extension, all the towns he delivers to and becoming a family to him. Their portrayal is an incredibly positive one, and one which I would love to see more of.

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A great and original fable on the origins of a certain toymaker, told flawlessly through fantastic animation that pairs wonderfully with its sublime art style and the whole thing is wrapped in a wonderful score from Alfonso Aguilar, and the bow on the gift that is Klaus is its ending, one that never fails to melt my heart. When I watched it when it first came out, I had only one thing to say, that it was the best Christmas film I've seen in years and a heart-warming tale that deserves to be on everybody's watchlist this year and reminds us all that “a true act of good will always sparks another”.

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Samuel Capper is a Journalism, Communication and Politics graduate from Cardiff University, and is currently employed as a Teaching Assistant in a local primary school. He writes fiction in his spare time and hopes to be published by the end of 2021.

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