Perhaps the biggest strength of animation is that it can be used to tell stories that would otherwise be too difficult to tell through conventional live action. By employing animation, film makers can tell a difficult story without the viewer being too drawn away by the perils of what the actor is going through. It’s that slight separation that allows viewers to be receptive to more harsh or brutal stories than they otherwise would be. This also allows for the emotional depth of the film to be deeper since the true reference for the pain that the animated character is going through is ultimately personified in the viewer himself. This is exactly why war stories told through animation are particularly powerful.Waltz With Bashir, released in 2008, shows us the story of a young Israeli soldier who witnessed massacres but can’t remember them and Studio Ghibli’s Grave of the Fireflies shows us the aftermath of two young siblings after the bombing of Tokyo in the second world war. Both of these stories if told through conventional storytelling could have been weighed down by the realistic depictions of the truly nightmarish events that took place in them but animation allows us to be able to withstand that and access the deeper and more devastating emotions in both of them.
The Breadwinner is about a young girl in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan who’s father is arrested for no reason at all and she is forced to dress as a boy to be able to go to market and buy food for her mother, older sister, and younger brother. The movie is beautiful, sad, heartening, infuriating, and hopeful. Parvana, the protagonist of the story loves stories. Her father taught her the art of storytelling and even used it as a means to teach her the real history of their land and their people. Parvana is also a gifted storyteller herself and throughout the movie she uses her stories as a means of escaping from her current situation and finding the strength to go on. While she tells stories, the viewer is treated to beautiful animation full of vibrant colors and joy, most of which is gone when we see the real world she inhabits. The injustices she and her family endure are truly infuriating but the strength they have is more impressive. There are few moments of joy Parvana experiences but the reasons behind them are bittersweet to say the least, being able to provide for her family or being able to eat scraps from the floor.
The ending of the movie is one of the most tense and rewarding endings to any movie in recent memory, not just animation. Particularly the way in which one major question throughout the movie is answered is masterful and melancholically powerful that it will have most viewers feeling a knot in their throat. Above all, The Breadwinner is a movie about the power of storytelling. The power of believing in stories. The utility of using stories to find refuge and derive strength from. The beauty of using stories to remember those you love. The safety that can come in being able to tell and believe a story about yourself. Even when everything is taken from someone, their story can’t be taken away. Stories can be salvation.
The Breadwinner is a fantastic movie and it shows the strength of the human spirit, the resiliency of a people and ultimately leaves the viewer with a sense of hope. In a world where the voices of the oppressed and marginalized are being pushed down by the louder, angrier voices, anger cannot change anything. Hate does not improve anything. Love, civility, compassion are essential to being human and love can withstand so much. More than anyone might think possible. As the movie fades out a quote from 13th century mystic Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad Rūmī is said which illustrates the point of this movie better and more eloquently than any blog post ever could:
“Raise your words, not your voice, it's rain that grows flowers, not thunder.”