You can live forever in a body that never ages. So intones the omnipresent and oppressive Avalon Corporation as it preaches its vision of a better world from the electronic billboards that are near ubiquitous in Paris, 2054. All you have to do is sell your soul, which even Paris itself seems to have done. Everywhere you look bland; glass structures are reaching up like weeds to choke the life out of the city’s classical architecture, a potent symbol of the Avalon Corporations terrifying power.
This is the backdrop to Renaissance, a black and white animated film from 2006 starring Daniel Craig, Ian Holm and Jonathan Pryce. Craig gives voice to police officer Bartholomew Karas, whose single-minded pursuit of justice is driven by the demons of his own past. When young scientist Ilona Tasuiev is kidnapped, Avalon’s front man, Paul Dellenbach, wants Karas to find her, believing he’s the best man for the job. What follows is crime thriller come tragic morality tale as Karas follows the trail down a spiralling descent that leads, inexorably, not only to the rotten heart of Paris that lies beneath its glass façade, but to his own destruction.
The world of Renaissance is a fantastically realised dystopia
As Karas continues his investigation, we learn about more of his black and white morality, the clear, undisputed lines in his own mind between right and wrong. As he delves deeper into Ilona’s kidnapping, those lines begin to blur through Karas meeting and falling in love with Ilona’s tearaway older sister, Bislane. They blur too whenever Avalon becomes a part of the picture. On closer inspection Avalon seem to care little for right and wrong, instead prioritising their own agendas and acting harshly when faced with any opposition.
For all the drama though it’s not the story behind Renaissance that marks it as a film that deserves to be singled out for praise. Karas’ single-minded pursuit of justice follows a recognisable formula almost too exactly to credit Renaissance with notable originality. Rather it’s the visual aspect of the film, the remarkable way in which it depicts a seemingly perfect world drained of colour by the corruption running through it. The old shunted are off into clinics to die forgotten by the young, who’ve invested in Avalon’s sterile and shallow monoculture, the city itself doing the same as glass replaces stone and brick, draining classical Paris of its unique character. Just as Avalon initially tempts Karas’ into their employ- the film produces enough curiosities to tempt you into immersing yourself, both visually and with its plot. The laboratories where gardens spring up instantly, the steampunk element of boat trains speeding out across canals amidst the cyberpunk aspects of hoodlums with virtual night vision and henchmen in stealth suits. The world of Renaissance is a fantastically realised dystopia; black and white animation becomes the ultimate metaphor for the moral struggles of dystopian Paris. Fantastic use of this stylisation makes the film feel like a graphic novel given life; it immediately draws you in with a desire to reach inside, explore Paris and breathe in the heady scent of corruption. Sadly, Renaissance is filed well and truly in the little heard of ‘cult classic’ category, despite its unique and remarkable visual style. That immersive cocktail of Renaissances’ plot, visual style and interesting moral dilemmas make it a film well worth seeking out and an experience you won’t forget.
By Gareth Wood
Like our recommendation? Have a look at our previous ‘One from Under the Radar’ here- One from Under the Radar- Frontera