Blu-ray Review: The Girl Without Hands

Since it’s early years, Disney has done it’s best to clean up the fairytales of The Brothers Grimm whether it be with Snow White, The Brave Little Tailor, Sleeping Beauty or Rapunzel (Tangled). Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm had collected the stories from all over and their versions contained the darkish elements that probably made them nightmare inducing tales if read before bedtime. Walt Disney and others at the company figured out how to brighten them up with sweet music, comical characters and nothing that messed up a happy ending. The animation the studio employed was rather realistic without too many unexplained flights of magical fancy. All of which is to say that Sebastien Laudenbach’s animated take on the Brothers Grimm’s The Girl Without Hands is more intense and artistic than a Disney adaptation.

One day a miller runs into the Devil and gets a tempting offer. The Devil will make him a really rich man if he’ll sell what’s behind the mill. Naturally the miller accepts the outrageous offer because why would the Devil trick him? The guy comes home and discovers liquid gold flowing through his mill. They’re rich. What could have possibly behind the mill when the offer was made? Turns out it was the Miller’s daughter playing in an apple tree. The Devil at first won’t take the daughter because he hands are too clean. But after a while he gets sick of waiting for the girl to dirty up so he has her hand cut off. Even then the Devil doesn’t get immediate satisfaction for she figure out how to keep her stumps clean. Eventually she sneaks off and meets the man of her dreams. But the Devil will not leave her in peace and plots for an even greater revenge on the girl who won’t let go even without hands.

Sebastien Laudenbach and crew animate the tale as if it was a sketch book with characters that capture the contours of their faces and bodies. They sometimes vanish and leave shade in their space. This works best for making sure that you’re not grossed out by a few of the more graphic moments in the film including the hands being cut off. You can appreciate the beauty on the screen with this minimal technique. The dialogue, music and sound effects fill in so many of the unconnected lines. Laudenbach is not imitating the Disney formula in how to make gold out of the Brothers Grimm. The Girl Without Hands is a marvelous treat for an older child or adult who wants a taste of raw Grimm. This story will never be adapted to a Disney flick until it’s transformed into The Girl Without A Manicure.

The video is 1.85:1 anamorphic. The 1080p transfer brings out the detail in the sketched characters and shaded backgrounds. It’s like watching modern art move. The audio is DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 in French. The lack of an English version helps things feel more like a fairytale. The cast sounds amazing. The subtitles are in English.

DVD with the movie and the bonus features.

The Making of The Girl Without Hands (13:47) show how Laudenbach originally approached it with a more traditional animation design in the sketches. He points out real places he referenced for locations in the movie.

Interview with Sebastien Laudenbach (19:12) is him talking as part of the promotion for the Cesar awards of 2017. He recounts the pitfalls and byways when he started the project in 2001.

Five Short films by Laudenbach include “Daphne” which uses nature, stop motion and narration instead of paints. He’s very diverse in the technique.

Trailer (1:39) reminds us why anytime the Devil offers a deal, it’s never going to work out in your favor.

Shout! Factory & GKIDS present The Girls Without Hands. Directed by: Sébastien Laudenbach. Screenplay by: Sébastien Laudenbach. Starring: Anaïs Demoustier and Jérémie Elkaïm. Rated: Unrated. Running Time: 75 minutes. Released: February 20, 2018.

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