Jason Arment reviews the animated film Tito and the Birds.
Much is being said about Tito and the Birds, and while some do well to note the themes in the oil painting style that is used to create the film, most miss the obvious—Tito and the Birds is a children’s film, and it’s not what’s told in the story, but how the story is told.
The universe the children navigate tells much about the world. For instance, when two children turn their bikes around to face police so their friends can escape, the ones who fled reason that going back for them would be futile because the two who stood their ground were either in a police station or a hospital. It’s obvious, in the world magnified in the eyes of children, that escaping a dark fate is impossible for some. The birds bring songs to Tito’s father, who hears them, even builds a machine to understand them, but it isn’t enough. After many twists and turns, the day is won, but not won easily or without cost.
The picture the film paints of society is truly grim, because all the truly meaningful parts of the film have little to do with birds.
The picture the film paints of society is truly grim, because all the truly meaningful parts of the film have little to do with birds. The birds are a plot device and could have been anything, the same way the dove in the Bible need not necessarily be a dove. The birds and the machines that help to understand their songs are deus ex machina for a boy without fear.
The places I found Tito and the Birds wanting isn’t where the plot was thin, but where the world seems flat. The father is kicked out of the house, but we never learn what put him on thin ice to begin with. What’s counter-intuitive is how the child’s view makes big and sinister concepts like “calm brigades”—government squads clad in HAZMAT suits spraying clouds of green noxious gas to knock and subsequently quarantine citizens afflicted by fear.
Tito’s world is one much like our own, where ideas make people sick with fear. But the rules that govern fears’ forces are ambiguous and anxiety inducing. Fear can also be passed from person to person, and even simply by sight. The consequences of succumbing to fear in the film also parallels our own world. People turn into lumps that never leave the house.