Wednesday, October 7, The Milwaukee Film Festival had its final screening of “Extraordinary Tales” as part of the Cinema Hooligante Program. “Extraordinary Tales” is a presentation of five animated adaptations of Edgar Allan Poe stories. The short anthology brings five of Poe’s tales to life through a variety of animation techniques.
The surrounding plot of the of the collection of short films is that of a raven/Poe speaking to death in a graveyard. As Poe recalls his stories, he comes to terms with his legacy and relationship with death.
Each of the five tales has a different style and method for telling Poe’s stories. “Extraordinary Tales” is an amazing exhibition of diversity in style with multiple animation variations from dimension to color to realism. It is a great showcase of different styles of animation and what they can do to bring the immortal words of Edgar Allan Poe to life.
The Fall of the House of Usher
“The Fall of the House of Usher” is narrated by the deep, booming voice of Sir Christopher Lee and features block-style CGI animation. The style of this short film heavily features shadows and angles, adding a depth to the scenes that makes for a three-dimensional experience of the eerie tale. The colors, angles, shadows, music, and narration all add to a masterful depiction of a Poe classic.
The Tell-Tale Heart
One of Edgar Allan Poe’s most famous stories, “The Tell-Tale Heart”, is brought to life much like a graphic novel. Classic horror film icon Bela Lugosi narrates this short film via archive footage. Lugosi’s voice combined with a grainy “Nosferatu” look makes for an timelessly spooky experience.
The Pit and the Pendulum
“The Pit and the Pendulum” features CGI that looks greatly like a video game. Its realistic animation mirrors a game even more so when it is divided into three sections, focusing on different characters or scene details at one time. This style is extremely fitting for this particular tale, as the prisoner becomes a kind of toy in a sick game his captors play.
The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar
“The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar” feels much like a graphic novel in style. It is two-dimensional, yet immersive, gruesome, and alarming at times. The utilization of color is particularly useful in making a mesmerized man walking the line between life and death an extremely fearsome, chilling thing.
The Masque of the Red Death
Each of the five tales takes a different approach as to how it communicates Poe’s words both visually and audibly. The majority of the narrators read the short story verbatim or only narrate the live speaker. “The Masque of the Red Death,” however, is a direct depiction with no narration. The artistry is beautiful and creates the scene and characters as if they are a painting, but the audience loses a lot without Poe’s words. In a film that focuses on Poe’s legacy, talent for storytelling, and immortal writing, completely omitting his words takes away from the experience for the viewer.