Fantasia presents Mad God; book festival tickets here.
Thirty years in the making, it’s a rare honour nowadays to spend an hour and a half in the presence of a stop motion genius like Phil Tippett. After all, this is the man who helped bring us the luscious model effects of Star Wars, Jurassic Park, Willow and Indiana Jones, to name but a few. His award-winning career in visual effects, a veritable feast of blockbusters that continue to find praise as some of the best films ever made. But, anyone expecting his labour of love to be child friendly should immediately reconsider their options. For Mad God is adult viewing; it’s raw, blood-soaked majesty, nothing short of a stop motion horror masterpiece.
Mad God’s visual and auditory complexity is coupled with a cutting dissection of humanities ability to create a hell on earth. The dialogue-free journey he creates joyously subverting pop culture imagery while creating a devilishly dark, bold and haunting underworld that is technically stunning. That said, Tippett’s work will not appeal to all viewers, its darkness eating away at the soul; Its blood and bodily fluid soaked animation relentless. But, for those willing to enter the hellish gates of Mad God’s world, the riches on display are nothing short of outstanding; the messages held in its journey haunting. Its visual power, mixing the nihilistic vision of Pier Paolo Passolini with the cutting social horror of George Orwell.
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Tippett’s film aptly opens with a fire and brimstone quote from Leviticus, the tower of Babel crumbling in the background. Here we follow a diving bell as it lowers from the sky into a never-ending underworld of human creation. And as the diving bells pilot emerges from his capsule into what can only be described as hell, the birth of this hellish world slowly becomes apparent. For this is a world of violence, torture, hate and war; a world where industry steamrolls its workers, slavery is accepted and encouraged, and survival sits on a knife-edge. But, as our gas-masked miner works his way through a maze of blood, death, slavery and greed, Tippetts story relentlessly twists and turns.
Split into four distinct chapters; Mad God charts a course through industrial and financial greed, religious and political corruption, power and war. A stop motion Dante’s Inferno that is both violent and brutal. However, unlike Dante Alighieri’s 14th Century poem, Tippett’s maze of hell is not rooted in religious concepts of sin. Instead, Tippett’s Mad God is human behaviour. The universe regulating our very survival only for the pattern of greed, war and violence to repeat itself over and over again wherever human life takes hold. But, just like a complex and darkly beautiful work of art hanging in a world-renowned gallery, Tippett’s masterpiece finds meaning in the eyes of each visitor.
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As I close my coverage of this year’s outstanding Fantasia International Film Festival, I couldn’t ask for a better final film. After all, Mad God feels like a representation of what makes Fantasia great. Its creativity, bravery and passion oozing from every frame, a life-long obsession and dream finally brought to the screen in a blaze of artistic beauty. I can only hope Mad God finds the audience it deserves as this, my friends, is a dark and haunting cinematic masterpiece.