Updated: Jul 20, 2020
Written & Directed by: #KalainithanKalaichelvan
Short Film Review by: #ChrisBuick
Having already created a perpetual storm of magnificent #shortfilms such as Petit Four, Inland Freaks and Stella Maris, maestro filmmaker Kalainithan Kalaichelvan is at it again with yet another incredible outing, this time with the hugely admirable tall tale Kingdom Animalia: The Melanie Fyfe Story.
In Kalaichelvan’s latest, we learn through archive footage and first-hand witness accounts the absurdly inspiring story of a fourteen-year-old, human child by the name of Melanie Fyfe; the girl who changed everything. Melanie had always known in her own mind that her body was not her own but as she grew older, her resolve to become who she was truly meant to be became impossible to ignore until finally, she had decided it was time. She was going to become the owl she was always supposed to be.
Yes, that’s right. An owl.
A versatile #filmmaker who knows exactly what his film needs where and when it needs it, there are many things to admire about how Kalaichelvan puts together each of his unique and wonderful stories. No two are alike, but Kingdom Animalia: The Melanie Fyfe Story is arguably the furthest shift in style and tone Kalaichelvan has explored yet.
There are still sombre moments to be sure, but they are more of an undercurrent to a narrative that seems a bit lighter of an affair than previous endeavours. Still, every nuance of the tone Kalaichelvan looks to achieve here is of course perfectly balanced, the clear message of the film is never compromised, in fact, is often punctuated with moments of brilliant comic timing such as the simple inclusion of a mere single word caption in the right place at the right time that really emphasise the tongue in cheek humour at play here.
As if being a tour-de-force in storytelling wasn’t enough, Kalaichelvan has proven yet again that his eye is as sharp as his mind. The off-centre framing is the directors own recurring flourish (this time endearingly adding to the lovable quirkiness of it all) and the glorious combination of Mac Wojcik’s mesmerising animation, Ilona Rybak’s vibrant illustrations and Peter Baker’s attention-demanding narration also gives the film its own unique flavour, again setting this film firmly apart from Kalaichelvan’s others but it's all just so perfectly fitting for this piece. And while some Wes Anderson comparisons could and probably will be made a la the vibrant pastel colours, playful score and the aforementioned captioning (fans of the Rusty Lake series might also feel some serious aesthetic vibes here), Kalaichelvan has proven here just as before to have enough in his arsenal as a filmmaker to use these tools to create a style truly his own.
Time and time again, Kalaichelvan manages to perfectly find the balance between brilliantly imaginative and captivating storytelling, while at the same time layering his films with such intricately placed subtext and this most recent gift is no exception. Kingdom Animalia: The Melanie Fyfe Story is another gem in an already sparkling filmography just waiting to be explored.
Watch the trailer here