Let whoever was not afraid to talk to his crush as a young man cast the first stone. In the case of Orion, however, the matter is more complicated. The eleven-year-old has developed an impressive list of things that terrify him. It features not only the murderous clowns and monsters under the bed typical of children, but also things that keep many adults awake at night: ridicule, rejection, and responsibility for failure. The boy’s vivid imagination suggests scenarios for subsequent disasters. A clogged toilet floods the school, a mosquito bite ends in a hand falling off, and opposing a tormentor leads to unintentional murder and reform school.
All this pales in comparison to Orion’s greatest fear – worse than dogs and the hairdresser, worse even than meeting the hated Richie Panici – the darkness that covers his room every night. Of course, anyone who has ever had the opportunity to look at the starry sky, walk among fireflies or even sit down with a book will not agree with such an unfair assessment. Darkness (the great Paul Walter Hauser in the original language version) also feels personally affected . Wanting to rehabilitate himself in the eyes of the young hero, he pays him a visit one evening. This is the beginning of an adventure that, as you probably guessed, will change not only the boy’s life, but also that of his extraordinary friend.
The author of the script, Charlie Kaufman, even when telling a bedtime story – because that’s what the plot of “Orion” quickly turns out to be – does not let go of difficult topics. It seems that he has a close relationship with the title character, a bushy-haired student of (Mrs.) Spinoza and a reader of David Foster Wallace. It allows the creator to look at the problems of young people from an appropriate level. He does not treat them patronizingly, but shows sensitivity and understanding, and even enters into dialogue with them.
The terrifying darkness is identified as a shell of something much deeper: the fear of death. Darkness and silence, i.e. the lack of light and sound, seem to Orion the best equivalent of unimaginable nothingness. Fortunately, we quickly have the opportunity to see that fear has big eyes. Much credit for this goes to Paul Walter Hauser, who voices Darkness in the original language version. In his interpretation, he is a lonely and misunderstood figure, tired of being defined only by opposition to his greatest enemy – the universally adored Light (speaking with the energy of morning radio announcer Ike Barinholtz).
Fans of Charlie Kaufman will easily find motifs known from the author’s earlier works in “Orion…”. This is not only a plot subordinated to the logic of dreams, but also iconography (the multiplied boss applauding his employee in one of the scenes looks like something taken from a “Being John Malkovich” poster). In turn, the theme of entering the hero’s head and searching through memories, as well as the black hole of fear that sucks them in, seem to be taken. Although there are elements of horror in the animation, they are balanced by comedy – as in the case of the sinister cucumber-dentist or the sequence styled after children’s drawings describing the dark scenarios arising in Orion’s head.
Charlie Kaufman would certainly subscribe to the words of Janusz Korczak, who claimed that there are no children – there are people. Does not treat them with indulgence, but sees them as equal conversation partners (as can be seen, for example, in the relationship between adult Orion and little Hepatia). The creator boldly looks under children’s beds in search of monsters hiding there and sheds light on even the darkest secrets. In a wise and accessible way, he talks about difficult and painful issues, without underestimating the feelings of young recipients. I have no doubt that thanks to this approach, ” Orion… ” will be loved by viewers of all ages.
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