From Sweden comes this astounding piece of filmmaking, a thing of wonder and beauty and an experience like no other.

Okay, so that kinda sounded like a blurb from the back of a DVD, but that’s pretty much how I feel. Strings is unique. Sure, we’ve seen a fair bit of puppetry recently (comparatively speaking) with Team America: World Police and Being John Malkovich. Both these films featured brilliant marionette manipulation, but Strings goes further by stripping back the layers of illusion and giving us a raw, almost tangible performance from the master puppeteer Hans Moller. This is done in two specific ways:
1) the only moving parts on the faces are the eyelids, the mouths are expressionless; and
2) we see the strings.

StringsIn fact, not only do we see the strings, but they are also integral to the story. The inhabitants of the world talk about their strings, they interact with their strings. This is almost a purifying technique, as, unlike us, these characters have had all the everyday bullsh*t stripped away; faith is no longer invisible and the ties that bind are literal.

A world like this has never been seen before. The skyline is striped by thousands of strings that reach up into the heavens, and everyone lives in roofless houses. When it rains the people have no choice but to be drenched, and seeing the water pouring down in the opening scene is magical. Freedom is limited not by walls or doors but simple crossbeams overhead, and to glimpse freedom from a prison with no walls is heartbreaking.

Not that this simplicity means that our hero Hal’s life is without complication. Strings is a mythic tale of the highest order. Mistaken identity, honour, redemption and love all play a part in his story, and it’s astounding to see such strong emotion shining through marionettes. There is only so much that can be achieved in this manner, however, and this is why the film at times came close to being dull. Technical and visual achievements aside, Strings isn’t a perfect film. I was one of four in the cinema, and even then there were the occasional sniggers (and to be fair it’s hard to keep a straight face when a puppet lets down her hair prior to a night of passionate puppet lovin’).

Strings is a unique experience, but only if your suspension of disbelief is effective enough and you’re willing to invest in such an otherworldly vision.

Rating: 4.0 stars
Review by Stuart Wilson, 18th September 2005
Hoopla Factor: 3.0 stars

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