Opening 30 Sep 2010
Das Sandmännchen (The Little Sandman) is a small figure with a peaked hat and a little pointy beard who appears five minutes every evening on TV (e.g., KIKA) to tell the children “nighty-night and sweet dreams” before they go to bed. The idea probably originated from a Hans Christian Andersen figure, Ole Lukøje, in 1841. The German Sandmännchen was launched on television in former Eastern Germany in November 1959, Then, a second Sandmännchen premiered a month later on West German television. These two Sandmännchen were similar, but not identical. German reunification caused the western version to die out and the eastern version to be assimilated to appear throughout the country.
The Sandmännchen series is made according to stop-motion animation, in which handmade figures (with “real” clothing) are moved around the set a millimetre a shot (or three seconds of film a day). By 1966, it was in color. Now, fifty years later, producer Jan Bonath and directors Sinem Sakaoglu and Jesper Møller have made a 75-minute, stop-motion film for children about four to eight years old.
Here the Sandmänchen lives in a lighthouse, helped by his apprentice Nepomuk, who is a sheep. Nepomuk failed sheep-jumping-over-the stile-to-put-you-to-sleep school because he was too fun and inventive to bore anyone to sleep. Their great quandary comes when a whirlwind named Habumar steals the sleeping sand in order to alter it to induce nightmares. The Sandmännchen and Nepomuk collect Miko, a six-year-old boy who wants to be a sea captain, and the three of them take off to retrieve the sand, meeting whimsical figures and facing danger along the way.
The film is definitely a success. I especially liked Rosinante, their mode of transportation, which could turn into a ship, plane, helicopter, walking insect, car, you name it. The positive moral of the story is: one can develop self-confidence and overcome fears and your dad was on your side all along – he just didn’t know it. Emma, a little girl at my press showing said she “loved the clumsy sheep because he did everything wrong which got him into trouble.” A small part of the film is “real,” as in real actors, and here six-year-old Bruno Renne as the “real” Miko is excellent. Two of the many synchronization speakers are German film stars Ilja Richter and Volker Lechtenbrink. If I have to complain about something, I would say that my kids grew up with the western version, so I anticipated the familiar “Das Sandmännchen ist da..” song, which, of course, was replaced by a different song (sung by Anke Engelke). (Becky Tan)