366 Weird Movies may earn commissions from purchases made through product links.
“In my animated films the design of every frame is of great importance, as if it would be a painting. Most of the time, and particularly in a mythical, fabulous context, my human characters, even lead characters, are only a minor part of the whole thing.” —Marcell Jankovics
DIRECTED BY: Marcell Jankovics
FEATURING: Voices of György Cserhalmi, Vera Pap, Gyula Szabó, Ferenc Szalma, Mari Szemes, Szabolcs Tóth
PLOT: Fleeing hunters in a forest, a pregnant white mare takes refuge in a knot of the World Tree. For seven years plus seven she feeds her son, Treeshaker, before he embarks on a quest to destroy the three dragons that have captured the three princesses of the kingdom. Joined by his brothers Stonecrumbler and Irontemperer, he seeks the entrance to the Underworld in order to battle the monsters.
- The narrative takes its inspiration from around half-a-dozen variations of a folk legend (which itself exists in over fifty forms). The canonical version is “Fehérlófia” as related by the Hungarian poet László Arany, though Jankovics’ rendition often departs from this source.
- Jankovics’ decision to adopt an experimental animation style proved to be a double-edged sword. The film’s singular appearance grew famous only after years of word-of-mouth percolation; it was unmarketable at the time of its release, and Jankovics found only fleeting acclaim (and no work whatsoever) outside of his native Hungary.
- Jankovics discounts any assertions about having taken psychedelics, claiming instead he merely wished to respect the fantastical grandeur of the source material.
- The titular White Mare takes on a warm, pinkish glow when near her son. This tonal effect was lost until the film’s recent restoration, the mare having appeared simply white in earlier washed-out prints.
INDELIBLE IMAGE: Treeshaker striding confidently behind row upon row of modern buildings in silhouette as a horrible brown smog obscures the scene: a mythical hero boldly facing modernity.
TWO WEIRD THINGS: Bubble-beard gnome; twelve-headed skyscraper monster
WHAT MAKES IT WEIRD: It might be impossible to find another feature-length animation that is simultaneously so stylized while feeling so organic, or with such vibrant colors telling so heroic a tale. Every cel is a stunning piece of art that seamlessly morphs into the next jaw-dropper. The curious source material lends a further twist: ancient Central European folklore channeled through a 20th-century animator toiling behind the Iron Curtain.
Re-release trailer for Son of the White Mare
COMMENTS: Marcell Jankovics’ introductory dedication declares Continue reading 17*. SON OF THE WHITE MARE (1981)