TORONTO – The directors of “Charlotte” say they see the animated biopic as an extension of its subject’s mission to render her Holocaust-era coming of age storyas an epic visual memoir.
The Canadian co-production traces the true story of German Jewish painter Charlotte Salomon as she chronicles her life in hundreds of gouaches entitled “Life? or Theater,” which some consider to be one of the first graphic novels.
“Charlotte,” which hit theatres Friday in a limited Canadian release, stars British actor Keira Knightley as Salomon, who was murdered at age 26 in a Nazi concentration camp in 1943. Marion Cotillard voices the title character in the French version of the film.
Toronto-based filmmaker Tahir Rana, who co-directed the feature with Éric Warin, says the movie brings new life to Salomon’s story of survival and self-discovery by weaving her visual style into the animation.
Rana says that while the artistic direction is grounded in realism, Salomon’s esthetic informed aspects of the film’s designs, such as the decision to substitute dark blues for the colour black, which she excluded from her palette.
He adds that the film incorporates Salomon’s actual artwork into dramatized scenes that depict her painting them, in a bidto capture the continuum between her artistic process and her lived experience.
“I felt a duty to grab the baton from Charlotte and carry her mission forward and bring this incredible story out to the world in a visual medium that is similar to the style that she painted,” Rana said in an interview during the Toronto International Film Festival, where the film premiered last fall.
“Charlotte” illustrates animation’s potential to tell stories beyond child-pleasing flicks about “magic unicorns,” said Rana, the director of the TV Series “Angry Birds: Summer Madness.”
“Canada itself is such a great talent incubator for animation, and there is a lot of brain drain,” he said.
“I feel like ‘Charlotte’ represents the sort of opportunity for domestic film production to … (leverage) talent that’s already here to tell a story that’s very mature. It’s a kind of cinema that I really hope we see more of.”
Other homegrown talent involved in the Canadian-French-Belgian co-production include author and filmmaker David Bezmozgis, who was one of the film’s screenwriters, and Toronto actor Henry Czerny, who voiced several characters.
“Charlotte” is being screened in Toronto, Ottawa, Vancouver, Winnipeg, Calgary, Edmonton, Halifax and other cities.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 22, 2022.