Sunday, 20 January 2008

Suzie Templeton "Peter and the Wolf" (Sergei Prokofiev's Peter & the Wolf)

Peter and the Wolf was one of the highlights of Channel 4's Christmas entertainment here in the UK in 2006. It is a magnificent movie and achievement. Suzie Templeton is one of our premier animators and her Stanley and Dog, both reviewed here, were exceptional in their use of stop-frame animation to create serious movies with impact. Her adaptation, alongside co-writer Marianela Maldonado, of Sergei Prokofiev's classic work is in a different league however, certainly in terms of production resources. Peter lives in a barricaded wreck of a farm in the frozen depths of winter. His grandfather assiduously attends to a ramshackle but nevertheless daunting defence against the wolf who prowls the perimeter. When Peter negotiates the padlocked gate and enters into the exposed icy waste the wolf comes a calling. The movie is not Disneyland. The grandfather is not a kindly old man, the house is a mess and Peter is bullied unmercifully by the neighbourhood thugs. His companions are a bloated, ugly cat, a magpie and a comical goose. The latter provides both the humour in an otherwise dark movie and also lunch for a lean and very mean wolf. The film has the range of emotions reflecting Prokofiev's work, rousingly played here by the The Philharmonia Orchestra under the direction of Mark Stephenson. It eschews a narrator as in the original, allowing the music and animation their own voice, though sadly the sound of the goose in the wolf's belly is missing. For those used to blockbuster cartoons on DVD or cinema, and their smooth-flowing movements, the comparatively jerky quality of Templeton's stop-motion technique might well be considered a trifle gauche though for me it is perfect for the Russian winter and events of a classic movie. The quality of the set and of the models is quite exceptional. The wolf is all menace. All this and no mention of the conclusion and theme. Templeton's adaptation is very modern, providing a psychological depth. When Peter spares the wolf it is not out of naive sentimentality, more a statement against the brutality of our world - though the goose would have disagreed with the philosophy! Buy the DVD here or visit the comprehensive website for the movie. Alternatively the movie has been featured on YouTube for some months: Peter and the Wolf 1, Peter and the Wolf 2, Peter and the Wolf 3.
Postcript (added 27th February 2008) Do read the comment for 25th February from Anna regarding the contribution of Poland and Norway.

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