“The Kingdom of Kensuké”: a poetic animated film about friendship helping orangutans

“The Kingdom of Kensuké”: a poetic animated film about friendship helping orangutans


During a terrible storm, 11-year-old Michael, embarked with his parents and sister on a sailing trip around the world, is thrown overboard, along with his dog Stella. Stranded on a desert island, the young boy and his animal find themselves very destitute. Unable to find food and drinking water to survive, they are still unaware that in this lost place in the middle of the Pacific, there lives another shipwrecked person: Kensuké, a former Japanese soldier who has lived there since his combat boat, during the Second World War, was destroyed. exploded in the open sea.

The prologue of the Kingdom of Kensuké announces an adventure story which, going against the grain of genre films, surprises with its calm rhythm and its simplicity: linear narration, classic aesthetic – and no less meticulous – produced in 2D, dialogues reduced to the essential, disappearing in favor of the emotions expressed through the drawing, the attitude and the features of the characters.

Everything in Neil Boyle and Kirk Hendry’s feature film tends towards this line of action whose apparent modesty serves every detail of the setting, thus bringing to our attention the delicacy of the drawing and the poetry of the landscapes.

An ecological fable

Adapted from the eponymous novel by British writer Michael Morpurgo released in 1999, The Kingdom of Kensuké , which was in competition at the Annecy Festival in 2023, is taking the time to settle in. As if it were about showing us around the island, apprehending its beauty before discovering its secrets; these benefit from high protection in the person of Kensuké, an old wise man who ensures the protection of nature and animals, in particular orangutans, regularly threatened by traffickers.

As we can imagine, despite the language barrier and the distrust that marks their first meeting, a true friendship will be born between the former soldier and the child. These links will contribute to the development of an initiatory story and an ecological fable that the authors have been able to carry out in pure coherence, without didacticism, thunderous effects or untimely actions.

Here you just have to let yourself be carried away by the magic of the place – the sounds of the forest, the low light of the undergrowth, the darkness of the canopy, the sparkle of a waterfall, the supple mass of the copper-haired monkeys – for the message to get across. And that awakens our sensitive cord. To the point of being moved like a kid at the spectacle of a hunter tracking down an orangutan mother, whose fatal outcome revives old memories. It’s Bambi we’re thinking of, then. At other times, we are reminded of Robinson Crusoe and Friday, Mowgli and King Louie from The Jungle Book . So many protagonists and stories in the tradition of which this enchanted parenthesis in the Kingdom of Kensuké fits.

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