Tales of the Night – animated film review

"Tales of the Night" theatrical poster.
“Tales of the Night” theatrical poster.
Tales of the Night is a compilation film from director and animator Michel Ocelot. The film is done in a silhouette style, where all the characters are shadows and flat. The animation is absolutely gorgeous.

The story begins with two young adults who spend their nights with a kindly older man telling each other stories in an old theater. The younger boy and girl act out the stories for the older man. In all, they tell six different stories, each from a different area of the world. The stories don’t have anything in common with each other, not even a moral or theme. They are each interesting in their own ways, and some of the stories might be familiar if you’ve read fairy tales from around the world.

My favorite segments in Tales of the Night include “Tijean and Belle-Sans-Connaitre”, “The Boy Who Never Lied”, and “The Doe-Girl and the Architect’s Son”. In “Tijean and Belle-Sans-Connaitre”, a young man goes exploring in the caves on his island in the West Indies when he suddenly finds himself in the land of the dead. the only way out is to defeat three monsters and have the King of the Dead send him back to the land of the living. Things don’t go exactly as planned, and he instead he saves the monsters. They, in turn, save him later on when the King of the Dead imprisons him instead of helping him.

The next story, “The Boy Who Never Lied”, is set in Tibet. A young man is employed by his king to take care of his talking horse, Mélongi. The boy is renowned for never lying, regardless of the circumstances. A neighboring king, who has a singing horse, makes a bet he can get the boy to lie. This king employes his daughter seduce the boy and then to convince the boy she will only be able to live if she eats the heart of Mélongi. Reluctantly, the boy kills the horse to save his beloved, but he still tells the truth to the king.

The last segment of the film, “The Doe-Girl and the Architect’s Son”, is set in Europe during the Renaissance. The architect’s son is in love with a young maiden who is claimed by a wicked wizard. When the wizard finds out the maiden is in love with the architect’s son, he changes her into a doe so the two lovers can never be together. The architect’s son has to figure out a way to change her back so they can be together again.

As I mentioned above, the animation—while simple—is absolutely gorgeous. Ocelot and his animators use fantastically vibrant colors which fit well in each of the segments of Tales of the Night. The attention to detail is wonderful, though he only places detail where it is needed. The choice to use silhouettes for all the characters is a bold one, but it works amazingly well.

The music by Christian Maire is simple, yet fitting, for each of the segments as well as the real-life interludes between segments. It accentuates the film and never draws attention away from the story. I loved it. The voices for the English dub did an excellent job, as well. The voices fit the characters well.

Tales of the Night is a solid compilation film. It is rare for such films to be released today, though if they were all as well done as this one, I wouldn’t mind seeing more of them. I recommend this as a great introduction to fairy tales from around the world.

Release Date: July 20, 2011 (France)
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Original Title: Les Contes de la Nuit
Original Language: French
Language: English

MySF Rating: Four point zero stars
Family Friendliness: 95%


Alcohol/Drugs: 1 (reference to tobacco pipes)
Language: 0
Nudity: 1 (silhouettes in the African tale)
Sexuality: 0
Violence: 1 (some war scenes, death by spear, scary beasts, everything is in silhouettes so not graphic)

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