‘This Magnificent Cake’ | MAF 2018 Film Review

November 13, 2018
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Festivals, Film, Film Reviews
3.5

Summary

This Magnificent Cake is an odd, abstract and subtly surreal look at African colonisation in the late 19th Century. A five-part anthology, made in stop-motion animation with felt puppets, it is certainly a highly unique film.

3.5

Summary

This Magnificent Cake is an odd, abstract and subtly surreal look at African colonisation in the late 19th Century. A five-part anthology, made in stop-motion animation with felt puppets, it is certainly a highly unique film.

While not having a complete narrative to speak of, This Magnificent Cake seems to revel in its own strangeness. Instead of linear storytelling, the film interweaves its five segments within one another, allowing for some surprisingly effective callbacks.

The film is occasionally humorous in equal parts a surreal and very deadpan manner. However, it’s the strongest aspect is its ending each segment rather horrifyingly. This French/Dutch co-production is from the mind of Marc James Roels and Emma De Swaef and Roels gave a Q&A at this screening at the Manchester Animation Festival. He spoke about how they embraced the humour within the film and that their focus was never a story.

That certainly comes across as This Magnificent Cake is entirely creative. Simply a showcase of slightly abstract stop-motion that leaves the viewer to interpret it as they wish. While it’s fair to say that a more linear narrative may aid in this film’s accessibility, and occasionally it does come across as disjointed, it is still a highly entertaining, thought-provoking and quietly touching film.

At 45 minutes in length, it is neither a short nor a feature, and Roels himself says as much. It’s being so strange makes it somewhat of an indescribable film. However, this oddness, frequent absurdity and intriguing little stories certainly make it enjoyable. This Magnificent Cake may not be a film for the masses, but those who do see it will be treated to some serious originality.

The most entertaining of the five segments focus on a ruined businessman who has been forced out of France. While drunk, he befriends a snail and seems to live with this snail in the wall of his mansion, forming a bond that is equal parts incredibly off-putting and rather sweet. As discussed, each segment does not end nicely, which could be read as Roels and De Swaef wanting to reflect the true horrors of African colonisation.

This Magnificent Cake certainly is successful as this reflection on its setting, particularly in its depiction of the colonisers and their treatment of native people. Whether the film meant to be interpreted in this way is left completely to the audience’s decision.

An incredibly bizarre, spectacularly surreal and definitely entertaining film, This Magnificent Cake is as strange as its title and sometimes makes about as much sense. But the sheer creativity and quality of animation is hugely impressive. You will seldom come across as unique an animated film as this.