797. The Man Without a Shadow – Georges Schwizgebel

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SUMMARY: A man sells his shadow to the devil for untold riches, only to discover that a man without a shadow is shunned by society.

WHY IT’S HERE: Based on Adelbert von Chamisso’s novella ‘Peter Schlemihl’, Georges Schwizgebel’s ‘The Man Without a Shadow’ is yet another masterpiece from the Swiss director. Using the paint on glass technique, Schwizgebel opens the film with an astonishing scene-setting sequence in which the sights of a city shapeshift with the amazing fluidity that was already a trademark for the director from previous films such as ’78 Tours’ and ‘La Course a l’abime’. Eventually we pick out a man whose dull, office-bound lifestyle is reflected in the monotones of his attire and surroundings. We follow him from work to a party where the screen suddenly comes alive with colour and we discover that he is here to do a deal with the devil; to sell his shadow for riches and a glamorous lifestyle. The moment when the devil takes his shadow from him is ingenious and the subsequent scenes make it abundantly clear that the shadow is synonymous with the soul, leaving the protagonist nothing more than a shadow of his former self. When offered the shadow back in exchange for his soul however, the protagonist instead uses a pair of seven league boots which allow him to traverse the globe in a few bounds. Rejecting the materialistic society that has made a fool and pariah of him, the man settles in a place where his affliction can be used to his benefit in an ingenious final moment that I won’t spoil here. Schwizgebel had already done enough to establish himself as one of the greatest names in animation but ‘The Man Without a Shadow’ continued to make that point emphatically and is truly a modern day classic.

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