I had become jaded without even realizing it. Gone were the days of digging up bizarre old movies and being in awe as I experienced their fantastic worlds. I’d cut my teeth on films like Fantastic Planet and Jason and the Argonauts. This tendency to think I’ve “seen it all” is, I fear, a sign that I have gotten old. But then, I saw Blood Tea and Red String.

A bird-person embarking on a grand adventure.

Directed by Christine Cegavske and released in 2006, Blood Tea and Red String is a somber stop motion fantasy that leaves one wondering what Lewis Carrol and Jan Švankmajer might have accomplished together. The film’s main plot is centered around a group of birdlike humanoids travelling far from home, in search of a doll. The doll is made by the bird-people at the request of a group of aristocratic white mice. But upon the doll’s creation, the bird-people form a bond with it and return the mice’s money. The mice, of course, steal the doll (along with an egg which was sewn inside of it by the bird-people). They take it to their home where they indulge themselves over cup after cup of blood tea. What follows is a proverbial ‘tug-of-war’ as the two parties fight over the doll. Obstacles arise along their path as they meet a powerful frog wizard and later, a giant spider.

Blood Tea and Red String is a mesmerizing adventure story that walks the fine line between James and the Giant Peach and Eraserhead without ever leaning too far in either direction. It is a complex web of contradiction and visual incongruity. Perfectly balanced, Christine Cegavske’s film is equal parts fun dreamy fantasy and surreal gothic nightmare. It’s aesthetic and atmosphere are so distinct, so carefully and deliberately considered. One might assume that the person for whom Blood Tea and Red String was made might be Cergavske herself because this is a clear labor of love.