Leanne Pooley took audiences to one of the (somewhat literal) peaks of New Zealand achievement with Beyond the Edge 3D. Now she takes us to the depths of our nation’s despair with animated ANZAC film 25 April. Powered by the memoirs of six real-life participants, the film uses actors in motion-capture suits to ‘perform’ the lines as if the characters were talking to the documentarian.
Their stories are reflected through handcrafted animated recreations of Kiwi life in army camps and on the battlefront. But don’t go in expecting a “hip hip hooray!” depiction; this is a brutally raw display that reconstructs ground zero for what it was: an utter waste of life.
Early on, a momentary ceasefire/smoko break shows how much the Turks and ANZACs respected one another, which only adds to the sorrow when the senseless slaughter continues. Then there’s the disease. And the heat. And the bombings. And the impossible fight for Chunuk Bair. You may have heard this all before, but coming from the figurative mouths of actual ANZACs grants 25 April a fresh, harrowing, intimate perspective.
Homegrown studio Flux juggle a bunch of animation techniques together. The mo-cap work in the ‘interviews’ looks ace, and when they tear up, you feel it. But when the fluidity of the mo-cap work is paired with the handcrafted animation – often good, occasionally wooden – the contrast feels jarring, as does the use of comic-book artist Colin Wilson’s 2D drawings.
These scattershot design decisions means the art direction doesn’t feel as cohesive as Waltz with Bashir – which was a major influence. But despite falling short of similar greatness, 25 April successfully illustrates the ANZACs’ beautiful bravery in a bullshit battle. And given this is NZ’s second ever animated feature, Flux has achieved something mightily significant for Kiwi animation.