Blood Tea and Red String

Blood Tea and Red String

Film review by: Witney Seibold


            The Creatures Who Dwell Under the Oak are known for their mastery at handcrafts. They are commissioned by the aristocratic White Mice to build for them a goddess. The Creatures assemble the goddess out of cloth and leaves, but find her to be so beautiful that they refuse payment and will not hand her over to the White Mice.

            The White Mice, incensed, sneak into the Creatures’ oak at night, kidnap the goddess, and take her back to their underground castle, where they play gin rummy with blank cards, bicker, and drink copious amounts of blood tea.


            The Creatures awaken, and are very, very sad to discover their goddess is missing. A group of them pack up, bid their loved ones farewell, and head out in search of the goddess.


            The land is not a friendly land. It is populated by man-eating plants, skull-headed crows, and a woman-headed spider who wraps her victims in red string. They are helped along by the friendliness of a meditating monk, and their own cunning.


            The goddess is implanted with an egg by the White Mice. The egg soon hatches, and the bird goddess from within escapes into the clutches of the spider woman…


            The first image of the film is a large birthday cake with the title emblazoned across it. We soon see a few large beetles pop out of the cake, and crawl about the plate. That mixture of sweet and familiar paired with creepy and alien is the tone that will expand throughout the film. The scenes of the White Mice playing cards and drinking their blood tea is long and only punctuated by the clinking of glass, the flicking of cards, and the incessant ticking of a nearby clock. The rhythmic pounding is enough to hypnotize, repel, and draw one in.


            “Blood Tea and Red String” is a dreamy animated myth. A macabre adult odyssey. With, mind you, no dialogue and no directly familiar surroundings (the creatures – a mixture of mouse and crow – do not really seem to come from any readily recognizable mythology). It is a dream. The strange stop-motion movements of the characters lull you into a sense of uneasy peace, as if you are just waking up from a particularly symbolic night terror. The images can be cruel and violent, but still leave us in a childlike peace.


            The story digs deep into the vast ancient wells of human storytelling, leaving you sad, satisfied, like at the end of a journey. There are few films like it.

             The writer/director Christiane Cegavske (who did the disturbing animated sequences for “The Heart is Deceitful Above All Things”) made “Blood Tea and Red String” over the course of a decade, almost single-handedly; She obviously has a lot on her mind, and was determined to show it. This also means that it is very low-budget, the animation is a bit shoddy, and the rhythms can be really strange from tie to time. But while the slipshod, DIY-feeling may alienate many audiences, the right kind of mind (like the mass of Goth kids who were at the midnight screening of it I attended) could easily latch onto “Blood Tea and Red String.” It may not amass the same kind of cult as, say, “The Nightmare Before Christmas” (it’s way too protracted and challenging in comparison), but few will leave without remembering the experience of seeing this odd little low-budget animated epic one-woman show.

Published in: on August 8, 2007 at 11:44 pm  Leave a Comment  

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