Updated: Jun 10, 2019
It’s incredible to see how certain aspects of life change over time. Humans get older, hairier and their frame of thought becomes more self aware; and as a result, obsolete every year or so. Something that could have been done in four hours can take days depending on how one does their work. In the case of Christiane Cegavske’s 71-minute 2006 stop motion feature “Blood Tea and Red String,” production took 13 years.
A lot can happen in 13 years. Technology evolves and innovative film methods are pushed past their boundaries every passing year. So how does a film with such a long production span manage to keep itself fresh?
To start off with, a good story is needed. Luckily we are presented with such. A group of aristocratic mice pay a group of oak dwellers to commission a doll for them. The oak dwellers grow fond of the doll and decide to give the mice their money back and keep the doll for themselves. They adulate the doll endlessly, making her a Goddess of sorts. This all comes to a halt when the mice steal her in the middle of the night. The story focuses on the oak dwellers’ attempt to retrieve her. Simple enough right?
Well there are several elements thrown in as the film progresses. While the story is good in concept, the execution creates a project that can be hard to follow at times. Part of what makes the film so hard to follow is its decision to omit dialogue. Everything is communicated through expression, which is, more times that not, cohesive and effective.
There’s also the animation to look at. How well does it hold up after a 13 year production? It can be a bit jarring at times. It’s not some sort of smooth project like Henry Selick’s 2009 film “Coraline” or even his 1993 film “The Nightmare Before Christmas.” What’s alluring about the “Blood Tea and Red String,” is that it’s not trying to be like those films. It has its own story to tell and its animation does a great job of helping it tell its unique story. There is one scene in particular involving hallucinogenic fruits and the oak dwellers that exhibits how well the animation can effectively creep out the audience and grasp their attention at the same time.
The musical choices in the film can also be seen as a something to draw the audience’s attention. The score is predominantly wind instruments, with only one or two songs not having them in at all. While the film can be intense and heavy handed at times, the light flute that played throughout never felt out of place.
The focus on the pain of love and loss and how the two are inevitably interwoven creates a somber tone that the film sticks with unabated. This can cause the film to feel a bit self important, as if it needed that title after naming itself a fairy tale for adults.
Nonetheless “Blood Tea and Red String” in an odd, complex and layered film that will leave you scratching your head. How deep you’re willing to look into Cegavske’s auteur mind to figure out this tale will determine how much fun you have. The film is creepy, not endearingly but beautifully. In the end though, the film grew just fine in its 13 year production span and I recommend watching it.