Cinema for Steampunks: Jack and the Cuckoo-Clock Heart (2014)


Falling in Love can be Deadly…

This twisted tale is set in the 19th century and starts in Edinburgh. Jack’s mother struggles through a storm on the coldest night of the year to get to the midwife. Unfortunately, the frigid night has frozen Jack’s heart solid, and it is only through the ingenuity of the midwife that he survives. His mother abandons the infant and his clockwork heart in the night, and the midwife finally has the child she’s longed for. But, his mechanical heart makes him vulnerable to the strains of the outside world, and his adoptive mother fears for his safety in the face of fear, angry, and especially falling in love.

When Jack is 10,  he convinces her to let him go into town. It’s love at first listen when he meets a girl working as a street performer. In hopes of seeing her again, he begs to be allowed to go to school where he falls victim to the school’s chap-hopping bully. Jack endures years of torture before he finally flees to Spain where his love has moved to in the interim. In the middle of the crazy circus she calls home, he strives to win her heart, even at the expense of his own.

What I thought of the Movie

First of all, it is French, and in my experience French films are often both interesting and a little disturbing. In the spirit of The City of Lost Children, this movie is as surreal as it is beautiful, which is why I suggest it as an alternative Valentine’s movie. I don’t want to spoil it, but let’s just say the ending won’t put most people in the mood for smooching after.

And don’t worry, you can get it dubbed in English. This modern musical set in the steam era is based on a concept album by Dionysos and an illustrated novel created by the lead singer, Matthias Malzieu. The French iterations go by the title Jack et la mécanique du cœur (2013), which translates to “Jack and the Mechanics of the Heart”, which is a much stronger title than the English “Cuckoo-Clock Heart.”

Like the title, some of the lyrics in the English version come out sounding a bit funny due to the translating, but I am sure it all rhymed in French. The artwork is inspired by the work of Tim Burton, which gives the setting and the story a dark and Gothic feel that adds to the Steampunkishness.






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