Gwen, the Book of Sand – Jean-François Laguionie – 1985


Gwen, le livre de sable CoverOriginal title: Gwen, le livre de sable
Rating: 3.5 Stars
Year: 1985
Directors: Jean-François Laguionie
Duration: 67 min.
Genre: Animation, Sci-Fi, Adventure, Fantasy

Gwen, the Book of Sand

Only 183 votes at the time of writing this. There is no better example of why I write about what I write about than Gwen, the Book of Sand. After having seen two René Laloux films and Angel’s Egg, IMDb told me to watch Gwen, the Book of Sand. Easier said than done. Finding it wasn’t easy, but it was worth the search. Like the previous examples, this is also a very strange little film. Little, because it is only about 60 minutes in length. Strange, because.. well.. it is. Like I mentioned, this film resembles Laloux’ work a lot. An alienating world, strange events and an overall vagueness in the plot. Early on in the film you get the idea that it’s just a story about a bunch of strange nomads in the desert, but pretty soon things get weird. Like in the image below, the nomads – walking on stilts – pass giant everyday human objects like tin cans, forks or in this case a motor cycle. They seem to be strangely unaware of them though, and appear to see them as a part of the overall environment.

Gwen, the Book of Sand

The story is mostly told through a voice over of one of the main characters, an old nomad woman called Roseline. She is the grandmother of another nomad, a rather strange unnamed boy who will play his part later on. After a slow but interesting introduction the film really begins when a girl – Gwen – joins the tribe of nomads after her father dies. She takes a liking to the unnamed boy already living there. One day the boy is taken, and Gwen and Roseline set out on a rescue mission of sorts. This takes them to many strange places. As they go along, a few bits and pieces of information are given by Roseline’s voice over, but it doesn’t really help you to understand what is going on. Contrary to Angel’s Egg there does seem to be some sort of main plot line, namely the rescue of the boy, but everything else is left to our imagination.

In this case that’s both a strength and a weakness. In Angel’s Egg and Fantastic Planet the strange surroundings and the lack of plot were great. Somehow it doesn’t work quite as well in this film. The nomads are really cool, but the rest of the world just doesn’t feel as alive and mysterious. The animation style is pretty good though for a low budget film and so is the music. There really isn’t anything wrong with Gwen, the Book of Sand, but you can’t help making the comparison to others of its kind. Doing so ranks this one at the bottom, so if you’ve never seen any of the previously mentioned films, watch those first to see if you like them, but if you have and you want more, this is definitely worth seeking out.

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