Review of The Painting

Most anime, except for maybe a handful (Kaeena, Princess Menonoke, Spirited Away), generally gets indifference from me. Unlike in the Japanese tradition (where animation is for adults), here in the West animated films tend to attract a younger audience and get indifference from most adults.

The Painting was different. I was invited in by the reviews, which mentioned that it was a highly philosophical movie. As I began watching, I realized it was in French with English subtitles (at least the version I saw, there is an English version out there also). I didn’t mind this at all: it was an opportunity for practicing the French language that I majored in during my college years, but be advised: the movie is FRENCH. VERY French.

By that I mean that it’s artsy, political, and that even a version of the French Revolution takes place inside the microcosmos of the painting.

Deep philosophical themes are explored via the metaphor of a painting, where characters have to contend with each other’s differences: some characters were beautifully and completely drawn, while others were mere sketches, or halfly depicted. These incomplete characters belong to the lower strata of the Painting’s society and are treated with contempt and hostility by the bourgeoisie, whose members live in the Castle (le Château).

Here is where Epicurean metaphors make their entrance. There is in Epicureanism a critique of cultural corruption that ties conventional mores to the polis (the city-state, the institutions) and opposes this form of civilization by idealizing the garden (where civilized people can live in their natural state). The Castle, in the film, is contrasted with the Garden, which is the world outside of it: a world full of greenery and nature, with huge flowres, flowing streams, where all the commoners live exiled forever from the Castle. Their entrance is forbidden, while pompous sermons are pronounced there about the natural superiority of Castle dwellers and how they were created by the Painter to rule over the rest.

The Painter is also painted in the hues of the characters’ projections in a way that is human, all too human. An interesting exploration of the theological and religious fantasies of mortals takes place in the film. The residents of the painting ask questions like: “Did the Painter abandon us? Will the Painter return?” The sketches and unfinished characters yearn for his return and even proclaim that he MUST return: “Will he finish us?

The notion of unfinished humans is prevalent in Christian redemptive theology: one hears sermons in Catholic Churches about the broken Christ and how we must put him back together, and how humanity is the body of Christ and it needs mending.

The popular references to the Painter are reminiscent of human longing for a god, for a savior to take care of us, to finish our natural limitations. Towards the end, someone has the idea that maybe we can find paint and finish ourselves and each other, with powerful redemptive effects–although a similar experiment in the human macrocosmos might sound like transhumanism and science, with their many (real or imaginary) dangers.

Besides all these considerations, the film is enjoyable and for the entire family. It has great didactic value, is critical of classism and racism, and a pleasure to watch.

About hiramcrespo

Hiram Crespo is the author of 'Tending the Epicurean Garden' (Humanist Press, 2014) and 'How to Live a Good Life' (Penguin Random House, 2020), and founder of He's also written for The Humanist, Eidolon, Occupy, The New Humanism, The Secular Web, Europa Laica, AteístasPR, and many other outlets.
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