Renaissance is a French animated film, set in Paris, 2054. It follows the efforts of a police captain named Barthélémy Karas (Daniel Craig; all voice credits are from the English version) as he tries to locate a missing 22-year-old genetic engineer named Ilona Tasuiev (Romola Garai). Her sister, Bislane (Catherine McCormack), assists Karas in the hunt while simultaneously providing the film’s romantic interest. Ilona works for The Avalon Corporation, which is primarily focused on reversing the effects of aging and ultimately the cessation of aging altogether. As one of Avalon’s researchers, Dr. Jonas Muller (Ian Holm), states late in the film “Without death, life is meaningless.” Aside from being an engaging (if overly complicated) detective thriller, this film is concerned with issues of identity (and its theft), genetic engineering, and corporate control. Thus, like all films about the future, Renaissance is ultimately about the present.
Renaissance is a noir thriller, but it’s also easily the most stylized science fiction film to come along since The Matrix. Renaissance has many core elements of noir detective fiction (a cop on the edge, damsels in distress, a hard-ass supervisor, and so on). As a result, comparisons to Sin City and Blade Runner are unavoidable. Many intentionally non-anthropomorphic scenes make Renaissance’s characters appear wildly out of scale and diminished in their world. Glass floors, walls, and ceilings occasionally give the impression of a level chess board, but symbolically they illustrate that the characters are never unwatched. Sound effectively conveys mood in this film; i.e. a nightclub’s deafening pulse. Also, there are splashes of the machine aesthetic along with Art Deco images throughout Renaissance that make it seem more authentically noir. These modernist touches are complimented, rather counter-intuitively, by a Gothic aesthetic, evidenced by moody lighting and nearly constant precipitation. The attention to detail in the design of the year 2054 makes this film difficult to take your eyes off of.
Other recent sci-fi productions such as 2046 are more stylish, but not nearly as stylized as Renaissance. At its best, Renaissance is noir film taken to its absolute conclusion; an impressionist contrast level rivaling Kabuki masks. At its worst the film is over-stylized and resembles animated Patrick Nagel paintings. Either way, this film has a style which no doubt will be imitated. For those enamored with beauty and experimentation in film then Renaissance is for you. So you should go to this film if you are, A) artsy (it’s chic), B) a geek (think “comic book”), C) a filmmaker (style baby), or D) a paranoiac (yes, they’re after you).