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MAPPAMUNDI

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by Bady Minck

grade: 7.5

In its complex simplicity, MappaMundi successfully depicts the history not only of our planet, but also of mankind, even hypothesising a (not) too distant, but practically inevitable future. Can there ever really be a definitive end, however? Bady Minck does not want to formulate any precise theory on the matter.

A strange blue planet…

Director Bady Minck is one of the most prominent names in avant-garde cinema from Austria and Luxembourg. Co-founder of the production companies Amour Fou Vienna and Amour Fou Luxembourg, the director has given us real gems over the years, often also venturing into the field of animation cinema. One of her recent works is the medium-length film MappaMundi, made in 2017, in which we are offered the chance to observe our planet Earth from decidedly ‘unusual’ perspectives.

Some cosmic cartographers – beings of great intelligence and unspecified gender – observe planets through a kind of pulsating DNA tube. Suddenly they notice a kind of core, a mysterious blue planet. What is it? What is its identification code? The planet answers them: “I am earth. Earth – for my friends. I do not need any identification code”. The history of the Earth is therefore observed by cartographers with professional curiosity. How did the blue planet change its appearance before becoming what we all know today? And, most importantly, how did these mysterious “bacteria” that from a certain point populated the Earth conceive the appearance of their planet over the centuries?

In MappaMundi, everything is shown to us exclusively from the perspective of the cosmic cartographers: from the drift of the continents, to the mysterious appearance of the aforementioned “bacteria” capable of multiplying and migrating from one continent to another. Through a journey through the centuries, we gradually see how the planet is seen and reproduced by its inhabitants, first through mysterious engravings in stone, then with increasingly elaborate drawings, which first show us the Earth as flat (especially when America’s existence was unknown), then gradually closer and closer to the clear images we have today thanks to photographs taken by satellites.

“Based on a true story” and “No planet was mistreated during the shooting”, as we can read thanks to two captions just before the credits. What characterises this interesting MappaMundi is above all a welcome irony. Bady Minck has maintained this approach throughout the film. A film that, in its simplicity, is particularly clever and sophisticated. Digital images and the stop motion technique contribute to making the short film light and pleasant, thanks also to several film quotations (impossible not to think of Stanley Kubrick’s masterpiece 2001: A Space Odyssey).

In its complex simplicity, therefore, MappaMundi successfully depicts the history not only of our planet, but also of mankind, even hypothesising a (not) too distant, but practically inevitable future. Can there ever really be a definitive end, however? Bady Minck does not want to formulate any precise theory on the matter, but in her personal depiction of the aforementioned DNA tube in which cartographers find themselves, we notice in MappaMundi also a certain romanticism. The story of a planet that has been through a lot, but which, despite everything, still continues to fascinate us with its majestic beauty.

Original title: MappaMundi
Directed by: Bady Minck
Country/year: Luxembourg, Austria / 2017
Running time: 45’
Genre: animation, sci-fi, experimental
Cast: Ganaël Dumreicher, Roxanne Oberlé, Robin Oberlé, Adele Neuhauser, Georgy Haselböck, Ivory Parker, Lilly Janoska, Maria Bill, Alexander Tschernek
Screenplay: Bady Minck
Cinematography: Martin Putz
Produced by: Amour Fou Luxembourg, Amour Fou Vienna, Oikodrom

Info: the page of MappaMundi on iMDb; the page of MappaMundi on the website of Bady Minck