Francis is newest feline neighbour along with his owner on a supposed pleasant neighbourhood. It would definitely be pleasant if one of the first things he finds in his new home is a dead cat. A street cat in the neighbourhood known as Bluebeard says that this is the fourth of a line of brutal feline murders found on the same street, and believes they were all killed by a human. Francis on the other hand believes the murders were caused by a cat, and all are linked. As Francis teams up with the glutton Bluebeard, the blind Felicity and a computer geek Pascal, they go on an investigation to solve this murder mystery, and discover the darker meanings to all the killings.
In 1989, Turkish born writer Akif Pirinçci wrote a novel known as Felidae which was published and became an international hit. It got the attention of the animation company Trickompany, who is most well known in Germany for the Werner cartoons. Directed by Trickompany founder Michael Shaack with screenplay written by Martin Kluger, Stefaan Schieder and Pirinçci, the film went into production and was released in November 1994 with mostly high acclaim in German. At a production cost of 15 million marks it remains to this day Germany’s most expensive film production.
The animation is simple and professional, consistent and has a good level of detail. It is nice to see a film about animals where all the non-human characters actually move and react like the animals they are, even if they do talk. There are also some dream sequences which have a transition well and are clear and detailed enough to allow the viewers to grab ideas from them, not to mention some are a little haunting, but the amount of creativity doesn’t go very far, probably due to the limited quality of the animation. It’s very watchable nonetheless, just not too engaging.
The soundtrack has some really nice tracks that give an unsettling atmosphere, and since it’s a horror/thriller film it works really well. However, not every track is really worth listening too on its own, since the mixing and editing puts some of the tracks way too far in the background to actually hear over conversations, and listening to the soundtrack on its own, its basic orchestral pieces that isn’t really melodic to be memorable. However I would point out that if any bit of music that you’ll take from this film, it’s the main song sung by Boy George, which has fitting lyrics and a memorable tune.
This film boasted a relatively big cast, at least in German cinema, so if any of the names Ulrich Tukur, Mario Adorf, Thomash Fritsch and Helge Schneider ring any bells than you will care more about the German dub than any English speaking person with little experience with Germany itself such as me. Since I lack experience in German cinema, I can’t give a grand opinion, although I can say that the actors put a lot of strength into their performances and it’s very interesting to watch, but some of the dialogue sounds way too fast to comprehend, and I know that says a lot since I’m more experienced with Japanese animation. The English cast is ok, some of the actors clearly put effort into their roles and overall it’s very listenable, but it has flaws. The voices don’t match up well with the lip movements; the acting is a little shaky and at some points it feels like all the audio clips were hastily edited together. However, since there are unfortunately no English subtitles for the German dub on the DVD, so most of you will have no choice but to watch it in English, which like I said is listenable, so there isn’t a major loss.
This was one of a group of films made before the advent of Adult Swim and maybe also the western boom of anime that attempted to disprove one long time fact about animation, which it was a kid’s medium. However, unlike other films in the group like Fritz the Cat and Heavy Metal, which tried to show it was adult orientated through lots of violence and sex, Felidae appears to use subtlety, story and atmosphere, turning what essentially is a thriller based murder mystery, except this is animated and not live action, and it works. From beginning to end you can tell that the film takes itself seriously, and doesn’t overstep its boundaries, which is easy to find why while watching as the film’s references to violence and sex and its amount of foul language is kept to a minimum and whenever they are used, they are used in context to the plot and setting instead of being used as cheap jokes. It is an interesting story to follow and each of the important characters have a good layer of depth to make them interesting, especially working out what goes through both the killer’s head and the mind of our curious and intelligent protagonist Francis. However it does have a main problem throughout which does drag the film down, it’s an adaptation and it feels like an adaptation. Some elements of the story and the characters feel rushed, such as a suddenly built-up relationship between Francis and Felicity, as well as the progression of the main murder investigation, leading to the idea that the film is too short or the original novel was too long to fit. It’s unfortunate since this is definitely a great film for adult viewers who look for serious, story driven films, and people who enjoy thrillers.
While it may not be the best looking or sounding film, it’s certainly a serious adult oriented film. It’s flawed, but it’s worth watching for what it brings.
Felidae is available from Senator Films. The original novel by Akif Pirinçci was available from Fourth Estate Publications, but as far as I know it’s out of print. A sequel novel that was released about a year before the film titled “Francis: Roman – Felidae II” also known as “Felidae on the Road” was also available from Fourth Estate Publications but is also out of print. While occasionally writing original novels, Felidae has remained the author’s most well-known series, and has written four further sequels, all of which haven’t been released in English, but all six books are available in German from Goldmann Verlag.