PSYCHONAUTS, THE FORGOTTEN CHILDREN
(Psiconautas, Los Niños Olvidados)
Psychonauts, The Forgotten Children is a difficult film to label. In most respects, the characters could easily be the ones who inhabit a standard talking animals animated adventure for moppets the mouse Dinky and her friend Birdboy are the familiar small, cute figures that you find here. For some reason, I kept comparing the film to The Extraordinary Adventures of the Mouse and His Child (1977) with which it has some similarities. The nightmare scenes reminded me of the animated sequences in Pink Floyd The Wall (1982) or perhaps the character style of Art Spiegelmans Maus (1991). These comparisons give you a sense of just what opposite poles it is that Psychonauts straddles.
Certainly, the world and sensibilities of Psychonauts is about as far from cutsie pre-teen animation as you can get. The world, sketchily but effectively drawn, is a wasteland in the aftermath of an industrial disaster. Several of the characters suffer either from drug problems or mental health issues Birdboy must regularly pop pills but is subject to hallucinations where he is pursued by black figures that look a cross between crows and The Babadook (2014). We meet a mother who has become grossly obese and bedridden as a spider crawls out of her nose. It is a bleak film. If it would have a message, it would seem to be an allegory for characters trapped in a nowhere town, desiring to escape from real world issues like drug pushing/addiction, mental health and petty police brutality.
The film is also one that operates on a surrealist level Dinkys family consist of her father who wears a cat suit and a brother in a dog mask, while elsewhere a rubber duck has violent flashbacks. Plot is fairly loose and it is more like a crosscut narrative that switches back and forward between character strands. The film is fairly simply drawn but has undeniable effect, particularly when it comes to the vividness of some of Birdboys visions. It is also a film not without a sense of humour, in particular the quirkily appealing character of an ambulatory alarm clock.
(Screening Courtesy of Sparks Animation Festival)