Buñuel in the Labyrinth of the Turtles is a new animated film that is extremely unorthodox as both an animated movie and as a biopic. An excellent film about filmmaking, this is a must-see movie for anyone who is interested in film theory or history.
This movie chronicles the experiences of Spanish filmmaker Luis Buñuel as he sets out to make his iconic documentary Las Hurdes. The story behind that film, of it being financed by one of Buñuel’s acquaintances who won the lottery, is absolutely insane and compelling on its own. However, if you are familiar with the surreal style and imagery of Buñuel’s work, this unusual biopic is sure to be absolutely fascinating to you.
The main focus of this movie is the idea of artistic expression, and in many ways, this is one of the best explorations of the meaning of art. Buñuel obviously had something he wanted to say to the people of the world, and a vision of how he wanted to say it, but that vision is far from agreeable with the general population. The question posed by this animated snapshot of this portion of his life is whether or not the extreme in art is justified, regardless of how an audience will respond to it, and the film offers no answer — because there isn’t an easy answer.
Over the course of the movie, we get excellent insight into Buñuel’s psyche. How many of the specific details are accurate may be debatable, but the film does a great job of capturing the essence of Buñuel’s persona and work. Even though some of the things we see him do are absolutely deplorable, the movie portrays these in a very morally ambiguous light, allowing the audience to decide whether his actions are justified for the sake of art.
The pacing of the film definitely meanders (as did a majority of Buñuel’s work), though if you can get involved with the characters, it is easy to get absorbed into the story and its world. This movie definitely isn’t for children despite the fact that it is animated — both because the story will likely be of little interest to them and because of some horrifying imagery — but adults, particularly cinephiles, will be fascinated.
The voice actors do an excellent job in their roles. Jorge Usón voices the eponymous filmmaker with a nuance that makes it stand out from most other voice performances. Because he is limited to using his voice to convey emotion, Usón’s abilities are all the more impressive. Of course, some beautiful character animation also helps, but Usón does a great job as a whole.
Visually, the film is absolutely phenomenal. Although one may question why the filmmakers decided to make this movie animated, it makes absolute sense. The bright color of the visual style contrasts wonderfully with the dark tone of Buñuel’s film being depicted. Some of the things that were done during the making of Las Hurdes were horrifying, and showing them in live-action would have been next to impossible. As such, the animation, combined with glimpses of actual footage from Buñuel’s documentary, convey this horror.
One of the most unique animated movies of the year, Buñuel in the Labyrinth of the Turtles should not be left out of discussions come awards season. Although this is very much designed for a niche audience, that niche will absolutely love it.
Buñuel in the Labyrinth of the Turtles opens in theaters on August 16.