Taxandria (1994) is a partially animated fantasy film by Raoul Servais, based on a book by French writer Alain Robbe-Grillet, and starring, among others, Armin Mueller-Stahl. Being Servais's first and to date only feature film, Taxandria is notable for the use of Servais's distinct animation style, the servaisgraphie, as well as its connection to the Belgian graphic novel series Les Cités Obscures whose creator François Schuiten was the film's production designer.
Taxandria was filmed in Budapest in 1989. However, due to the enormous amount of post-production work that needed to be completed, it was not released until October 1994. In the interim, Elliott Spiers, who portrayed Aimé Perel in the film, became gravely ill from the side-effects of an anti-malaria inoculation. As a result, he was unable to complete the voice-dubbing required for his character and, consequently, the voice of Aimé Perel is that of another actor. Spiers died in January 1994 before the film's release. Taxandria was premiered at the 1994 Flanders Film Festival and was dedicated to his memory 1).
Young prince Jan has been sent to a quiet coastal resort to study for his final exams, but instead he spends most of his time with his new friend, the lighthouse keeper. Jan ignores the warnings of the locals who claim that the loony lighthouse man (Armin Mueller-Stahl) eats seagulls for breakfast. Maybe the lighthouse keeper is crazy, but this does not prevent him from introducing prince Jan to the dreamland Taxandria, a phantasmagorical place devoid of time, memory, and progress. Jan learns that a reason for the lighthouse keeper's notoriety among the locals is that from time to time he hides political refugees from Taxandria from the authorities; in one scene, we see some of these fugitives arrive at the coast in a boat and taken in by the lighthouse keeper. It is however never made clear whether Taxandria really exists or if the viewer only sees what the lighthouse keeper relates to prince Jan, although once Jan is transported to Taxandria simply by looking into the lighthouse's rotating light while the keeper is away 2).
As a failed scientific experiment in the past accidentally removed Taxandria from its home planet (a disaster now recalled by the citizens of Taxandria as the Great Cataclysm), all science, progress, and measure of time are outlawed as a consequence, whereas the Perennial Present reigns supreme. The land is ruled by two conjoined princes, always hidden behind a curtain, and their police force who insure that everyone there lives in the Perennial Present, as it is illegal to discuss the past or future. The police is headed by this world's evil counterpart of the benevolent lighthouse keeper (a double role for actor Armin Mueller-Stahl), communicating the will and orders of the mute Two Princes, making him the effective ruler of Taxandria 3).
While at first Taxandria seems a magical, wonderful place, Jan soon sees the darker side of this strange world. The people are not happy living only in the present; it is repressive. Soon he sees that many suffer from extreme paranoia. Aimé (Elliott Spiers), the son of the evil Head of Police, seems to be a catalyst for change in Taxandria, as he is obsessed with making new inventions and learning about the country's past. Later, Aimé falls in love with Princess Ailée who is trying to free herself from the paradisaical confines of the Garden of Mirth, where women are kept away from men, and discovers the secret of his father that made him Taxandria's effective ruler while being the Head of Police, as well as the true nature of the Two Princes 4).
An introduction movie of Taxandria.
Some of the artwork done by François Schuiten that was published as bookplates from several Belgium bookstores.