The plot of the film is the kind of slightly revisionist history that makes the mind tingle with delight. In this world, based on the world of graphic novelist Jacques Tardi, everything changed when Napoleon Bonaparte was killed before he became a famous world leader. His demise started a chain reaction where most of the scientific advancements we now know and use never happened. Electricity, television, telephones? Don’t exist. Instead everything is run on fossil fuels, which obviously has led to a very different world.
At the center of that is April, voiced by Oscar-winner Marion Cotillard, who has long had to fend for herself since her scientist parents were killed. Turns out, though, maybe that’s not exactly what happened and April’s search for truth in this steam-based world kicks off a globe-spanning adventure. (synopsis (c) io9)
Alternate histories, done well, are thing of wonder and thrilling (or terrifying) possibility.
They grant us a window and insight into our world via a mirror universe that is often the same in certain ways but also wholly different; we see how manifestly altered things might have been if a particular person had lived, or the opposing side had won the war, or a critically important invention had never come to be.
It opens up a mesmerising sweep of storytelling what-ifs and it’s in this creatively fertile place that April and her Extraordinary World (Avril et le monde truqué), a masterfully entrancing animated French film with steampunk sensibilities sits most perfectly.
In this alternate world, science was robbed of its power of advancement long ago, the world existing on far more basic industrial bases than it currently does and Avril is an orphan, mourning the loss of her scientist parents.
As Variety notes, this beautiful film is a beguiling mix of “downbeat reality [which] never advanced past the Industrial Revolution” that still somehow possesses an “imagination-tickling dimension of hope and possibility”.
Yes the world is a ruin, the last surviving oak tree coddled in the relatively pristine surrounds of Beaux Arts exhibition space, and the Paris of 1941 is darkly oppressive but even here creative, possibility and wonder reside and it’s by that spirit that April and the Extraordinary World is powered.
This is by all accounts an intelligent film that by showing an alternate vision of the world encourages us all to use our gifts, whatever they may be, to make our world a better place.
April and her Extraordinary World opens in USA on 25 March 2016.