Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Mary and Max

Figure 1

Mary and Max is a clay animation telling the tale of two unlikely pen pals, eight year old Mary from the suburbs of Australia and middle-aged Max, an obese man suffering from Asperger’s Syndrome living in New York. Curious Mary begins the pen pal relationship which spans over twenty years as the two converses about their struggle with the people in their lives and their own problems.

Figure 2
The film at first is rather misleading, a style so soft and cutesy leading thoughts of childishness is instantly taken with the lead character questioning about their beliefs of where babies come from after Mary argues with a girl from school. Yet as the relationship continues between the two pen pals we learn more about their feelings of being alone, the discomfort they feel around people and the world and the comfort that each letter brings to the other. Robey writes “We learn a lot about their overlapping enthusiasms, including Max’s five favourite words (ointment, bumblebee, Vladivostock, banana and testicle, for the record), and the deep yearnings for companionship which make the successful delivery of each letter a heart-in-mouth business. Elliot is a talent eccentric enough to make Nick Park look like an office drone and the serious sadness underpinning his vision only makes the humour work better.” (Robey, 2010) With these sometimes wacky letters combined with visuals to tell the experiences of the characters it is a rather comic, heart warming and at times heartbreaking tale that entertains throughout.

Figure 3
The film being a claymation meant that the film would take a long time to shoot, 57 weeks in fact and despite a dreary colour palette with a splash of a clever use of red the films techniques stop it from becoming anything near boring. In an interview with Elliot his decision on the palette and red device is explained “...Mary’s world is brown, Max’s world is grey, we thought well, how often can we use colour as a device, I didn’t want the film to be just these two dreary colour palettes. I thought there must be another way to use colour to help accentuate the objects that they send to each other. The pompom was the first one, we made the pompom bright red to really stand out and draw attention to how important Max sees this little gift Mary sends him and then we started using this rule...” (Elliot, 2009) Accompanied with other wonderful techniques such as the clever animation of the characters expressions “Some touches are pristinely realistic and subtle, like the quivering of lips or the welling up of eyes on a face about to cry (there are quite a few tears shed too - an innovative use of sexual lubricant, a reported 2,400 teaspoons of which were used on set)” (Ivan, 2010)

Figure 4
What comes across as a childish and cute animation, Mary and Max has all the content and technique to really stand out. With a clever use of colour, brilliant choice of voice acting and dark comedy merged with a playful style which easily entertains, Mary and Max tells a heartbreaking and heart warming tale of two individuals struggling with their worlds.

References –

Text –
Elliot, Adam (2009) Interview: Adam Elliot for Maryand Max
Ivan, Sophie (2010) Mary and Max review
Robey, Tim (2010) Mary and Max Review

Figure 1 - http://www.rowthree.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/12/mary_and_max.jpg
Figure 2 - http://thekasen.files.wordpress.com/2011/07/mary-and-max.jpg
Figure 3 - http://26.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_lnb1y5sSDG1qdomqvo1_400.jpg
Figure 4 - http://www.allmovia.com/c/9883/9883_3.jpg

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