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Hollywood Insider Son of the White Mare Review, Hungarian Animation

Photo: ‘Son of the White Mare’/Arbelos Films

Directed by ambitious creative Marcell Jankovics, and in collaboration with the Hungarian National Film Institute, ‘Son of the White Mare’ (Hungarian: “Fehérlófia’) is a momentous adventure of tumultuous activity and kaleidoscopic landscapes. As a viewer it is both mesmerizing and jarring to watch: visually, the colors and shapes are in constant flux and fluid transformation. The narrative is also in flux, featuring the rise and fall of characters in power. Churning with colors and mythic monsters, viewers are engaged in an unapologetic pendulum as we bob along the river of this mythological hybrid. 

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‘Son of the White Mare’ – The Plotline and Story

The film follows the story of three warriors, traversing through colorful geometry in an abstract land seeking entrance to the underworld, where they are determined to free three enslaved princesses–but must defeat the machine-like dragon creatures that have them held captive. Before the three warriors join together to set off on their mission, the third irradiant son of the divine white mare is raised in the hollows of a large cosmic tree– whose entry point looks very much like a female sex organ

This third son, a young humanoid boy, nurses from his mare mother into almost young adulthood, and although it drains her entirely–there seems to be some kind of unconscious prophetic exchange occurring. As the son gains tremendous strength– the mare depletes. His prolonged nursing proves to be productive, as he slowly builds up the muscular endurance to shake trees from their roots, where he could barely budge them before. It took years, but after working at it every day he became known around the lands as the notorious Treeshaker.

After the death of his mother, Treeshaker knows he is strong enough to proceed with his purpose–setting things back in balance in the universe and avenging injustices.  He comes across two of his brothers, Stonecrumbler and Irontemperer, who marvel at his mighty fortitude and vow to join forces to venture into the Underworld. The three princesses are under the rule of three greedy, multi-headed, dragon-machine husbands who have trapped them in spinning castles. Before they can rescue them, they must find their way through to the Underworld and through the lands. Too fearful to navigate the sinister terrains, Treeshaker demands the two brothers keep a tether for escape above ground–and journeys alone to rescue the princesses. 

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Guided through with the help of a tricky little gnome, Treeshaker finds the hidden spinning castles. The gnome had tricked his brothers previous to the exchange and used his long magical beard to greedily eat all their porridge. Slipping into their hut like a serpent of smoke, he deviously overpowered them. Treeshaker came to see what was happening to the missing food, and severed the magic beard from the gnome, forcing the brothers to aid him in turning the beard into a sword that he would use in the Underworld. For the return of his magic, the gnome keeps his word and assists Treeshaker in his heroic endeavor to rescue the prisoners.

Mirroring Earthly Elements

Restoring cosmic order requires strength, patience, and courage- all of which had to be earned over several years–nursing and exercising his muscles shaking trees–to become the hero that the land needed to replenish balance. This kind of patient nurturing is evident in all forms of nature and each character seems to represent this duality both spiritually and physically. 

The effervescent components that comprise our world are in constant flux–this was reflected and achieved brilliantly through the moving landscapes and sharp geometric designs. Each frame is accented by rich visual layers that seem to connect everything and unify it–even in all its distinct shapeliness and color–the dynamic shifting gives the impression of some earthly fluency, nearly immersing all persons, creatures, and things into a single shifting ensemble. It gives it a very psychedelic feel, combining angular and symmetrical structures with borderless, swaying, circular shapes–similar to the external appearance of nature in contrast with the more repetitive, rigid forms that we might find in the coding of our DNA, in our weaponry, or our industrial architecture. 

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Interestingly, Marcell employed a technique that juggled the characteristics of all creatures, objects, and things using anthropomorphism, zoomorphism, and chremamorphism–essentially assigning various earthly, animal, and human qualities to one another. The tree had genitalia, a mountain at some point opens like two legs in which a river forms and flows out from what appears to be another feminine organ, and the Treeshaker’s circular head seemed to represent the sun, shining the brightest out of his two brothers–with his hair swirling like flames or rays. 

This primordial symbolism seems to be pervasive throughout these glimmering characters, as both of the brothers sport visual attributes that support the three-way harmony between them. One brother is endowed with a triangular design to depict stability in their trinity, and the other brother’s emblem is like a drop–embodying the more frivolous essence of the eternal cycle of yin and yang. 

Metaphorical Maps

Much of Western philosophy has its origins in mythology. You can see remnants of it in the foundations of our modern society, from business to religion to casual social affairs. They are perhaps so formative because their subjects reveal the universal concerns of humans throughout history: the origins of existence, birth, and death, the after-life, good vs. evil, morality, karma, nature, ego, etc. They emphasize the importance of the collective wisdom of consciousness.

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They are often timeless due to their nature of being endlessly reinvented and applied to new generations as guides or metaphorical maps for our moral behavior. While traditional religions also play in a similar sandbox, mythology leaves some room to take things less word for word–it’s more acceptable to navigate through the tales as abstract guiding principles for how to present ourselves in the world and coordinate with others and nature. Mythologies are powerful to our subconscious mind as they reinforce our “a priori” knowledge reservoir, bringing forth ancient wisdom that has been shared across cultures and ancient history. 

Perhaps humans are geared to receive the power of stories in a way that we don’t understand–like our consciousness is a cup waiting to be filled with narratives for us to learn from. Stories, art, legends, tales, and mythologies have made lasting leaps in our evolutionary journey–perhaps they are more intrinsic to who we are than we can comprehend yet. 

This animation was an ambitious and unique feat. I haven’t seen anything like it, it doesn’t quite fit in the “Yellow Submarine” category per se, or other hallucinogenic animation genres because of its roots in this deeply mythological world of symbolism and epic poetry. It makes it entirely original and beautiful. A stunning work of art and history, passed down for us to enjoy, absorb, and apply its wisdom into the crannies of our daily lives. 

Starring: Gyorgy Cserhalmi, Vera Pap, Mari Szemes, Gyula Szabo, Ferenc Szalma, Szabolcs Toth, Otto Ulmann, 

Directed by: Marcell Jankovics

Written by: Marcell Jankovis, Laszlo GyorgyProduced by: Roman Kunz | Music By: Istvan Vajda | Cinematography: Zoltan Basco | Editor: Magda Hap

By Melissa McGrath

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