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Strings (PG)

Review by: Jack Foley | Rating: Two

A LABOUR of love for Danish director, Anders Rønnow-Klarlund, Strings is a striking achievement on many levels, not least of which is the way in which it consistently manages to overcome the limitations that could have been imposed by its marionette cast.

Rather than getting in the way, the strings serve as a literal lifeline for his puppets, becoming as central to the plot as the actors who provide voices for the marionettes.

As a result, lovers entwine their strings to display their feelings for each other, while enemies cut away at the strings of their opponents, thereby ending their lifelines.

Such acts provide the dramatic impetus for a tale that unfolds in the style of a classic Shakespearean tragedy with its eye on contemporary issues.

A dark tale of love and revenge, the story concentrates on a young prince, Hal (voiced by James McAvoy), who sets off to avenge the apparent murder of his father, the Emporer of Habelon, at the hands of his arch-enemies, the Zeriths.

Disguising himself as a common slave, Hal plans to infiltrate the Zeriths and claim the life of their leader, unaware that the real threat comes from within the walls of his own city.

As a result, he must overcome the betrayal of those he holds dear, while finding love in unexpected places - all the while aware that failure to uncover the real murderers could pose disaster for his people.

Epic in scope, Strings is an astonishing achievement, not least because it achieves more with wooden, mobile-eyed puppets than some blockbusters have managed with a special effects budget that runs into millions.

Credit must therefore go to Rønnow-Klarlund for employing such a talented team of puppeteers, whose unseen work must have required pain-staking attention to detail and constant use of the imagination.

The battle sequences, especially, are impressively orchestrated, as is a sequence involving childbirth, so that the puppets never seem too awkward when moving.

It means that audiences will be gasping with admiration rather than sniggering into their popcorn as Rønnow-Klarlund's story delivers its fair share of twists and turns.

Clever, too, is his choice of actors to voice the characters, given that his heavyweight cast includes such names as Derek Jacobi, Julian Glover, Ian Hart and Samantha Bond, to name but a few.

As a result, proceedings are given the gravitas they merit, with the emphasis very much on tragedy.

The one worry is that in keeping things so dark in tone and serious in nature, Rønnow-Klarlund may struggle to find an audience despite its PG certificate.

It will take some string-pulling of a different kind to persuade mainstream cinema-goers that they will want to see it.

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