Director – Ingvild Sve Flikke – 2021 – Norway – Cert. 15 tbc – 103m
An artist draws constantly, her life punctuated with animated inserts, as she finds she is pregnant with a ninjababy – out in cinemas and on Curzon Home Cinema from Friday, September 10th
Rakel (Kristine Kujath Thorp) is the messy one, Ingrid (Tora Christine Dietrichson) is the tidy one. They share a flat. All this is apparent from Rakel’s simple, sketched black lines on white background, animated plan of their flat. That opens this essentially live action film, which is thereafter punctuated by animation either in similar inserts or apparently drawn into the moving live action images e.g. on light areas of wall (this may be a special effect, but it’s an extremely low tech one).
Ingrid thinks something is up with Rakel – the larger breasts, the vast quantities of fruit drink consumed – could Rakel be pregnant? Do a test. Positive. To the abortion clinic. Sorry, 26 weeks and the legal limit is 12. That’s Mos-Aikido (Nader Khademi) off the hook, the sex with him (and it was good) was more recent. The father can only be the self-centred Dick Jesus (Arthur Burning), her one sex partner who didn’t use a condom in that time period. But he doesn’t want anything to do with the child – and by the way, wants sex because now that she’s already pregnant, she can’t get pregnant again. Self-centred.
Mos-Aikido, as she named her Aikido instructor, was generous enough to accompany her to the clinic and, even though she’s pregnant by someone else, likes her enough to ask her out for a coffee. For coffee, read Fantasy War Gaming competition. “Blood and Suffering!!!” But why are all his painted Kings Of War figures male? He hasn’t thought of this, and will later go to great lengths to find her a female figure, inventing a complicated backstory to accompany it (something he often does with his war gaming figures).
Still, Rakel doesn’t want to keep the baby and begins investigating her adoption options. She attends a class of prospective parents posing as one herself to discover, to her horror, that all the couples there are well off and therefore will, in her view, spoil the child. She talks to her record producer sister Mie (Silya Nymoen) who has been trying unsuccessfully to have a child with her partner and is about to go to L.A. to produce a client’s album. Both Mos and Dick seem keen to get together with Rakel and raise the child. So her options of getting rid of it don’t look good.
At the core of all this is the ninjababy (voice: Herman Tømmeraas) who has hidden himself in her womb to emerge unexpected nine months later. She draws him, he comes to life as an animated line drawing (and, on one occasion, as a cut-out animated foetus in her womb when she’s having sex… sperm, yuk!) and they talk about their feelings for each other as mother and child. Since the child is unwanted, some of these conversations actually run pretty deep.
If the first hour is engaging and likeable, the final half hour plus is absolutely hilarious as the birth looms and Raker needs to settle on a solution. It’s not obvious where the narrative is going, right up til the closing minutes. The ending, when we finally reach it, is both unexpected and strangely satisfying.
This is ostensibly a no-budget live action, awkward comedy of relationships not unlike the equally wonderful Eagle Vs. Shark (Taika Waititi, 2007). Yet it also makes fantastic use of its animation by Inga Sætre, who also co-wrote the piece alongside director Flikke and third writer Johan Fasting. That brings to mind live action / animation hybrid Volere Volare / I Want To Fly (Guido Manuli, Maurizio Nichetti, 1991) in which the male protagonist turns into a cartoon as a result of his sexual insecurity.
The animation in Ninjababy may not be quite as technically advanced, but the way it fits into the live action narrative is brilliantly conceived and the use of the medium as effective as can be imagined, whether in the character work of the ninjababy himself or the more effects-oriented set-pieces accompanying a ringing alarm clock or conjuring rain falling on a hospital bed.
In short, although produced on a shoestring this is an absolute gem as a live action / animation composite, a look at the phobia of unwanted pregnancy and impending parenthood, or simply a riotously funny comedy of relationships. A real treat.
Ninjababy is out in cinemas and on Curzon Home Cinema in the UK from Friday, September 10th.