Movie Review: Wool 100%
Wool 100% (2006)
Director: Mai Tominaga
Once upon a time, two quiet and quirky sisters lived in their cluttered mansion. Each day they would eat the same breakfast before sneaking out to examine the garbage of the people who lived in the city near by. Quickly darting from bin to bin, so as not to be seen, this odd pair would rescue what others had tossed aside. Each night, they would gently clean their newfound treasures and carefully draw and color a picture of each one for their record book. They had no cares for anything except their clutter and solitude.
One day, the two sisters discover a wicker chest filled with bright red balls of yarn. Of course, they bring it home and happily admire it as they sketch and color each ball for their ledger. But these balls of yarn already have an owner. They were never discarded; they were just waiting to be found. Later that night, loud noises wake up the sisters. An intruder has some how managed to get past the mountains of junk to get into their home. They find a young, naked girl feverishly knitting the red yarn. When she finishes her sloppy red sweater, she quickly pulls it on and passes out. When she comes to, she begins to scream—a loud, growling, agonizing scream which echoes throughout the house, shaking pictures from walls and clutter from tables—“Damn! I have to knit it again!” This will happen again and again. The sisters’ world of compulsive collecting and isolation will be completely disrupted. Dubbed “Knit Again” by the pair, this slightly deranged creature will demolish everything they have created.
In this quietly odd film, there are long stretches of time without much, if any dialogue. Playful and surreal marching music alleviates some of the silence, but the audience is really just a patient observer, a child watching the tale of this broken secret world unfold. There is plenty to see. The actresses are skilled enough to always stay in character, to always be seen as characters. The animation, along with the peaks we get at the sisters’ illustrated inventories, is a perfect match to this story. Thick outlines, bold colors, and macabre children’s book illustrations enhance the way the story unfolds instead of serving as a forced break from the live action. Even the revelatory scenes set in a dollhouse use little wooden dolls as mere props—you can see the human hands which manipulate them the whole time.
Why have the sisters chosen to shun the entire world? Why do they compulsively collect junk to the point that they can barely get around in their own home? Who is this kooky screaming girl and why does she have to keep knitting? Why won’t she leave? These are all good questions, but the most important one to consider while watching Wool 100% is why are we being shown all this stuff in the first place? Fortunately, director Mai Tominaga has not forgotten to give us that answer as well. Like all good stories, there’s a universal message unfolding with each frame.
Wool 100% is a sweet fairy tale. There is nothing particularly sinister about it; it’s built around more of a pervasive sense of loneliness and melancholy. Viewing it is a strange and interesting experience. It’s a really cool blend of live action, animation, and dolls. It doesn’t try to be odd just for the sake of being edgy and it certainly isn’t shoving a bunch of disconnected techniques in to impress you. All three elements of expression work together, exploring painful secrets and revelations in ways that only a fairy tale can. Tominaga is a wonderful storyteller.