A 250 word (or less) review of Moving Pictures the graphic novel
By Kathryn and Stuart Immonen, Top Shelf Productions
"Comics are just words and pictures… You can do anything with words and pictures."1 Moving Pictures certainly argues to this thesis. The comic takes place during World War 2 in Nazi occupied France and is constructed around efforts by the French to hide their cultural treasures from Nazi art profiteers.2 Although, as the books dustcover synopsis helpfully points out: “this is (not) that story”. Rather the focus of Moving Pictures is Ila Gardner, a Canadian helping the French, who becomes embroiled in a dangerous affair with Rolf Hauptmann, a Nazi Art Commission officer. Kathryn Immonen’s script is constructed in an unorthodox manner, being built around the interrogation of Ila by Rolf interspersed with flashback sequences that serve as portraits3 of the events surrounding the interrogation. Stuart Immonen’s artwork uses this sketchy, minimalist cartoon line with heavy inks… kind of like a period film4 of a noir tintin. The result of the way the comic is structured leaves many key details happening off panel or implied. To me this left some of the story open to interpretation, forcing me to revisit the flashback portraits to reach my own conclusions about the story. I think this ambiguity may have been a thematic choice: when looking at sculptures or paintings audiences use a single image and setting to construct their own meaning and narratives and I think Moving Pictures is commenting on this process. Of course I, like my interpretation of the book’s events, could be severely wrong. I’d highly recommend Moving Pictures.
Word Count: 250
1: Quoth Harvey Pekar via Warren Ellis…
2: Literally Moving Pictures to safety
3: Portraits that convey the emotionally resonate stakes of the story. Moving Pictures.
4: A Film. A Moving Picture.
Okay, I kind of want to layout my interpretation of the ending of Moving Pictures on the off chance that someone who read the book reads this entry and wants to compare notes. This is going to be very SPOILER intensive, so I’m going to drop it after the cut.
So my interpretation of moving pictures is predicated on two ideas:
1: Ila is romantically interested in Marc, the French art smuggler, and is only pursuing an affair with Rolf, the nazi, as Marc is unavailable. This is based on some on some art/dialogue clues but is admittedly a bit tenuous. It feels right though.
2: Rolf's actions are entirely based on consolidating enough power over Ila to control her. Some of this may be linked to his feeling jilted by Ila’s attraction to Marc. His request for the portrait is clearly a barometer of his control over her (since he destroys it upon receiving it) and his comment about a "The kind of person who can’t hold on to their papers" being an implied threat to Ila (who gave her passport to her friend in the opening scene).
Thus, I interpreted the end of the book as Ila dressing in sexy clothing to please the man who is using coercion to maintain their affair after reading a goodbye letter from the man she really has feelings for. Which is a pretty tragic and moving picture.
(Sorry couldn't resist…)