REVIEWS | THE CURIOUS CHILD | animation, fantasy, short | UK English | runtime: 3:21 | digital | 16:9 | 2019 Howard Vause Films
The Curious Child is a marvellous mechanical picture book of shadows, cardboard cutouts and puppetry.
Bethan Dixon Bate lures us in with simple facts, affectionately reading us this little folktale, while Howard Vause cranks the handle and throws his flickering imagination onto the screen.
The film is visually stunning: an animated photorealistic graphic novel bursting into twitching life. As though Terry Gilliam were a bit madder than he actually is and was let loose to animate the Tales of Beedle the Bard, and then beamed it back from the future.
The music is perfectly judged, an almost invisible addition by P J Leonard, and the story is simple - one that we all know, but spend so little time on, because….well… life gets in the way.
Musician and Children's Author
The artwork is really beautiful. I could pause the film at any point and just enjoy the graphic - its essential beauty and the dreamlike quality which gives a feeling of depth while keeping the story simple. A profound little film and I was left hungry for more.
Bill Palmer ADPT M.Sc. MRSST
School for Experiential Education
Pure brilliance. Watch it twice! Initially I was disappointed by the ending (did I really expect a silver bullet?) but after watching again, I found many hidden layers and great depth - the sign of a great film. Amazing work!!
Beeston Film Fest
An extraordinarily beautiful animation - vivid, colourful, bold and whimsical.
Somewhere between Coraline and Terry Gilliam. Nightmarish in places but also thought provoking, it feels like the telling of a folk tale complemented by beautiful, thoughtful and evocative music. A truly stunning film.
Library & Information Officer
Somerset County Council
Tim Burton meets Shaun Tan with a twist of Levi Pinfold in Howard Vause's picture book-esque short The Curious Child.
Like all things wonderful, Howard has created a thing of great beauty here, doing what he does best by fearlessly and eloquently capturing the innocence of childhood, whilst simultaneously sloshing knee deep in the dark and shadowy trenches of the human psyche.
Penetrating the biggest question man/womankind has about existence, dancing so beautifully with the brazen inevitability of death, Howard leaves us with the biggest truth of all - that some questions can never be answered and in the face of death they all become irrelevant.
And in my book that's a good thing, for if we knew the answers to all the questions in the world then we'd lose the mysterious. And if we lose the mysterious, then artists and makers and writers and creatives like Howard Vause would be out of a job. And that would be the saddest thing of all.
If I were to offer any criticism to balance my enthusiasm, the film is poorer for the fact that we never get to hear the girl's voice, but that's a small thing.
I loved this little film and I look forward to the full length feature film that is yet to be birthed from this man.
Children's Author & Speaker
Utterly absorbing and beautiful to look at, The Curious Child has a hypnotic quality - layer upon layer upon layer of imagery and meaning. It is also ominous and rather scary.
Stuck-in-my-head -images are the mermaid with the two faces (one a broken aging actress), the wide sunset shot which made me want to cry and the image and words of the 'man who seemed to be in charge'.
Very shortly into it I was already thinking that I wanted to go back and see that bit again and that bit and that bit... and what was in the back of that shot? The layering of detail is remarkable. I suspect if it was a book of illustrations one could linger for hours over the pictures. Wonderful texture.
I found myself quite concerned that the ending might upset me (or maybe looking forward to being upset - I don't mind a weepy ending) but actually I find myself really moved in a very lightened way to be reminded that nothing really matters in the end. There is only now.
It's going to be very well received at festivals I'm sure.
Lost Without Trace, Director
Creative Arts & Media Management
Why am I alive? It’s a huge question and a brave subject for any art form to tackle.
Howard Vause’s The Curious Child approaches it with a lightness of touch that sweetens the issues at hand without dampening their philosophical clout.
Whimsical and thought-provoking, we follow one girl’s journey through knowledge. Aided by her helpful woodland friends and hindered by some not so helpful fellow humans, both the child and the audience learn a little about life and death.
Couched in comforting music and the somnolent tones of Bethan Dixon Bate’s narration, pondering the nature of life itself does not seem depressing but enlightening. Similarly, the enchanting imagery of the magical wooded landscape emphasises the wonder and bizarre beauty of the earth, rather than ruminating on the potential meaninglessness of existence.
In comparison to the woodland wonder, the human carnival is bleak - with its ghastly appearance and clever critiques of the adult world. Instead of a normal ticket, a credit card grants entry to a human carnival that offers nothing more than greed and deception. In such a short film, this incisive imagery works wonderfully to efficiently convey its scathing message.
Casting a snowy white caterpillar as death is another innovative feature. It does away with the grim dread of a dark hooded figure and instead presents death as something that can be beneficially transformative and beautiful.
The Curious Child is an unusual film both in its aesthetics and in its content. It achieves the feat of conveying a huge amount in a small space. A film for curious children and adults alike.
FRAME LIGHT Film Festival
< Full review (below) as featured in Short Focus magazine [issue #1]. Here reviewed as a children's film - really? - makes for an interesting perspective.