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In May 2023, French director Thomas Cailley presented Animalia (orig. Le Règne Animal) at the Cannes Festival. An adventurous science fiction thriller with impressive CGI effects, set in the near future and shot in the beautiful south-west of France.

The story starts on the streets, where the protagonists get stuck in traffic and get into a fight. The son gets out of the car to get loose, but suddenly there is tension in the air and the back of a truck bursts open, letting go a group of wild animalistic mutants that free themselves into nature. Two years prior to that, the first humans started transforming into mutants due to a mysterious disease. Humanity has adapted and patients are medically accompanied. Centers are built, where affected humans are kept to try to stop the transformation.

The wife of François (Romain Duris) and mother of Émile (Paul Kircher) has become a mutant herself and is part of the group that freed themselves. With the help of policewoman Julia, the three follow her into the woods, trying to find her. On their journey, father and son encounter mutant humans, and as they delve into this new world, the two also explore and deepen their relationship with each other as well as to themselves. While Father François tends to escape the present and look into the past, Émile slowly makes peace with the “Animal Kingdom”, of which his own mother is now a part of, when he finds out that his own body starts to alter.

Visually, Animalia strikes with very fine CGI that embeds into the beautiful surroundings of southwest France while depicting the very intimate journey of the characters. As they get deeper into the unknown world, the visuals intensify and get more colorful. Unlike similar movies with this Sujet like Avatar, the film is not stuffed to the fullest with heavy CGI but rather tells an intimate coming-of-age story, while depicting the hard test of the relationship of a family that has been confronted with unlikely circumstances.

Even though the film plays in a fictional future, it sends out a clear message to viewers. In Animalia, nature strikes back at humanity, with a spreading disease that lets humans turn to animalistic creatures again. In difference to a dualistic depiction of good nature against bad humans, humanity is confronted with change within the midst of society. Humans that turn into mutants are part of both worlds and so, mankind is given a new challenge to adapt and cooperate with Mother Nature rather than fighting against it. Animalia seeks the beauty inside the harsh nature of things and lets viewers wonder about their own relationship with it. And if not so, it’s a beautifully done and visually appealing film. Now to be seen in cinemas across Germany.

Image Courtesy of  © Studiocanal GmbH

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