The truth is that the sheer will it takes to put together a two-hour, animated film is ridiculously commendable. The fact that this task was accomplished by only two people is incredible. For that alone, I've slightly padded my rating because even now, after the fact, I'm still very impressed. But does an amazing accomplishment always equal an amazing film? In my eyes, not at all. You can be impressed at a technical feat - but that doesn't mean the final product is as impressive. It's like being amazed at the capabilities of a top of the line television because of the tech demo shown in stores - and being fully aware that you're not going to want to stare at the screen for two hours.
With that written, Anna Gerasimvoa's film, "The Breath of Life" can at times be visually amazing. It opens up and quickly tells of three non-magic nations, and shows us the events of a ritual that doesn't quite go as planned. The main players in the film, Mila and Varlahm meet in the forest, and in a sequence that has the two alone together ridiculously fast, the two connect. Apparently, Mila and Varlahm share a unique gift of two magics and thus begin their journey together. Here's the thing, after watching the film, I'm still not totally sure I understood anything more than the basic concept. "The Breath of Life" is incredibly hard to follow along with at first. I also had to watch half the film, and take a rest before continuing because of what I can only call information overload. And even then, my retention level of what I've just watched is a little questionable. "The Breath of Life" is visually pretty cool to watch, but very quickly the novelty fades. As I wrote at the start, an impressive technical feat for sure - but also a pretty messy one at times.
My initial thoughts before even watching this film, was why on earth the movie would use the phrase, "2D animation made by 2 people" as a tag line. It felt gimmicky and even apologetic. Let the technical specs be for those who want to research a title if they enjoy it, don't use that fact as a selling point. The average viewer doesn't care how many people made a film - they only care if the film is actually good. Putting the two-person fact front and center seems like an excuse to fall back on - if someone doesn't like the film. As for the issues I had with the actual film? First off, it was so confusing especially during act one. It was like watching a serialized television show from half-way through the season. I'm sure everything makes perfect sense to Anna, because it's her baby... her concept. For me, a newcomer, I was thrust into a world I knew nothing about and expected to follow along instantly through a barrage of people, nations, magics, and concepts. No easing into the subject matter, I was thrown right in the middle of a half cooked stew of ideas and characters.
Another area of contention for me was the dialog itself. At first, I thought it was the voice acting that felt awkward and hollow, but that wasn't entirely the case. It was the dialog. The constant use of full sentences in an almost robotic way, and the clean, crisp way people spoke with one another. Natural conversation is messy, but not here. It's like each character waited for the other person to fully complete their perfectly formed dialog, and then responded in full, and again and again. Real people have conversations that overlap, that get cut off... messy. Not in this film. For the most part, conversations are exacting and ridiculously clean for two hours. By the way, the fact this film is two hours is another area I found troublesome. It took more than one sitting to watch because it just felt so darn long.
I know it seems like I'm coming down hard on this film, but I'm not. I'm simply being honest. There's no question of the work that has gone into this, but that doesn't excuse "The Breath of Life" for any of its faults. This is a long, confusing film that the average Joe may have trouble following. I'm not saying that eventually, the story doesn't become clearer and clearer - and that it does get considerably better once that happens, only that you have to put in the time to reach that point. Does it look pretty cool? Yes, yes it does. Will it be for everyone? No, I don't think so. Of course, my opinion is my own and I encourage anyone reading this to watch and make up their own mind. For me, "The Breath of Life" is a watchable but flawed production. Still, better than a lot of reasonably budgeted movies I've seen lately. Two and a half stars.