This mother’s young daughter seems born of a different breed. She sips milk from the dog and catches birds with her teeth. The mother is frightened at first but eventually overcomes her fear and learns to love the little monster. It’s a touching story about finding a compassion for those we hold dear, even when we don’t understand them.
Natalie Bettelheim and Sharon Michaeli have crafted a beautiful atmosphere through subtle use of lighting and space. The compositions are minimal and well-controlled. The “camera” finds interesting angles to frame the action—each shot could be the page of a giant illustrated children’s book. It’s a minimalist black & white aesthetic that’s worked well in other recent short animations, Matter Fisher and My Mother’s Coat.
I admit, part of my fondness for the film is due to a familiarity with an old eskimo legend, Big Mouth Baby, about a baby born with a big snarled mouth. Of course, Big Mouth Baby ends with the child devouring its mother and then the entire village. I’m glad to see Howl end on a happy note.
Howl is Natalie and Sharon’s graduation film from the Bezalel Academy of Art and Design in Jerusalem. For more on how they put the film together, visit the film’s website.