‘The rabbi’s cat’, the saga of ‘The dungeon’ or ‘Vampir’, of unquestionable plastic beauty, are some of the albums created by Joann Sfar (Nice, 1971), a multidisciplinary author obsessed with sex, Judaism , love and French society. In his prolific career, he has dared to adapt two important French myths, the iconic Serge Gainsbourg for film and ‘The Little Prince’ for comic. Considered one of the most important authors in Europe if we talk about comics, not content with convincing critics and specialized audiences with his cartoons, he decided one day to work hard also in the audiovisual medium. “Many of my friends who draw comics had made a movie,” he says. «I got jealous and wanted to do something too. My friend Riad Sattouf (“Les Beaux Gosses”), my friend Marjane Satrapi (“Persepolis”), my whole studio, everyone had made a movie! I was the only one who had never made movies and that’s why I wanted to do something. I started the project of adapting my album ‘The Rabbi’s Cat’ to animation, but it was not moving forward and in the end they called me to develop a project with actors, ‘Gainsbourg (Life of a hero) ”.
After the esteemed biopic that collects the tribulations of Gainsbourg, a vital artist in the history of France, who was played on the big screen by Eric Elmosnino, whose physical resemblance to the musician is evident, the long-awaited cartoon version of his work ‘El rabbi’s cat ‘, well received. This week the recommendable ‘The Little Vampire’ premieres to open the season, once again joining the animated cinema with the moving image of one of its most celebrated comics, with the family audience in the spotlight. The splendid result adapts the three books of ‘Little Vampir’, with edition for these payments by Fulgencio Pimentel. They tell the story of their origins, and includes almost all their adventures and dialogues. The film, with a more concentrated plot, has been seen at prestigious festivals such as Annecy or Sitges, garnering excellent reviews and comments. Fiercely endearing, faithful to the original illustrations, it may aesthetically recall the imagery of Tim Burton, although it is closer to the film versions of Dracula from the Hammer. “My visual universe can resemble Fellini, Kurosawa or Buñuel, or more modern, Tim Burton or Guillermo del Toro”, emphasizes its greatest architect. «I am fascinated by the Nosferatu of Murnau. I like the idea that vampires are a very expressionistic European tragedy. In my work, be it comic or film, there is a fusion between European drama and a funny American movie. Americans do not understand anything about European dramaturgy, and that is very interesting because we have lived for more than 2,000 years, since the Greeks, with the idea of the tragic. In other words, we can’t do anything, we can’t just solve anything. The American dramatic idea is the opposite: every problem has its solution if you find the hero. It is very interesting to play with these two conceptions of the narrative. History, when it comes from America, consists of helping to solve problems, while in Europe we like to contemplate how difficult it is to live.
‘The little vampire’, with a poetic spirit, made with care in two dimensions, can be read as an ode to difference. The main bloodsucker lives in a haunted mansion with other monsters, but despite the environment, he is sovereignly bored. He wants to go to school, like normal children, but his ancestors do not let him leave the haunted house. The outside world is dangerous for beings from other worlds who are in this one. On one of her escapades, she meets a human with whom she strikes a unique friendship. The relationship leads to a remarkable family entertainment that moves away, despite the basis of the story, from other well-known animation proposals such as ‘Hotel Transylvania’, opting for a more emotional route without ignoring the darkness. Sfar, as a director, takes care of every visual detail. Accustomed to facing only the blank page as an illustrator, for the French artist it is an immense pleasure to stand in front of a team to face the genesis of a film. “They respond to your ideas immediately,” he highlights. «When you make a comic, throughout its development you don’t know what is going to happen. When you arrive at a store, you meet a reader and they like it or not. In a film, everyone can draw pictures, watercolors for decoration and all that. It’s a very interesting relationship… Comics don’t help you make movies. Because it is not written the same way. I am not able to write a film script very well because of the comic. I have to learn. It’s very different. But I want to learn in my own way. Because I’ve been doing comics for a long time, that’s why I can break the codes of comics, which is what I’m learning to do in film. Although drawing helps a lot ».
‘The little vampire’ has a great autobiographical component, although a priori it may not seem like it. “His parents won’t let him go out, they are terrified that something might happen to him abroad, something similar to my own childhood,” says Sfar. “Since the death of my mother, when I was just four years old, I was surrounded by doctors, they were always afraid that something would happen to me. They medicated me a lot, even though I was perfectly healthy. They always put vitamins in my pockets! When Little Vampir throws a tantrum because he’s fed up with not being allowed out and being told that everything is dangerous, I have to say that I often felt that way too. The more he writes for children and creates fantasies, the more the author talks about personal things. Her books are often used to help children who have had traumatic experiences, come from dysfunctional families, or unpleasant things have happened to them. “My philosophy is to never address the inner suffering or painful experiences of children, but to work on the social perception of their identities,” he says. «When you are an orphan, everyone assumes that they should feel sorry for you and that you are sad, as if you were a fragile little thing, a crystal child … There was a time in children’s literature when children were often depicted orphaned peasants. In most children’s stories, being an orphan is a fantasy, as for example in Harry Potter, whose author grew up with her parents. He writes for children with both parents and encourages his young readers to fantasize about what it would be like to be an orphan. They may dream that their parents are not real and that an extraordinary destiny awaits them. For true orphans, the main problem is the social perception that others have of them. When I went to school, I was the one who always drew pictures for my classmates, the one who participated in the end of the year parties, the one who did the clown and who liked to make people laugh, because I was terrified that they would think that it was boring and sad, and that it wasn’t funny. Through fiction, I try to explain to children from broken homes that, in fact, we all come from strange and wonderful families and that this does not mean that you should behave in a certain way.