Though this German film is based on a fairy tale of the same name from—who else?—the Brothers Grimm, one need not be familiar with the story to enjoy this movie. Indeed, not knowing what will happen adds to its mystery and magic, two elements essential to any good fairy tale. The film opens in an indetermine time—it could be two hundred years in the past or the future—with scenes of children who have been abandoned by their parents because of the greedy wishes of an unfair king. Their village is one known for its fine weaving, and the king decided years ago that the weavers should be taken prisoner to pay off the village's tax debts. The only problem (as is often the case with unfair kings): the village's taxes are accumulating at twice the speed at which the weavers are able to pay them off, and it's been years since the village's children have seen their parents.
The village leader decides a child should make the long journey to see the king and plead for his mercy, but the two boys he chooses are scared and a determined little girl—a mere ten years old—volunteers, much to the leader's surprise and the boys' relief. The choice of a girl-savior is a welcome element here, not often found in children's films, and though it follows the Grimm tale's lead it nonetheless offers a picture of a girl who can be just as capable as her male peers, if not more so.
Without giving the plot away, suffice it to say that there are lessons to be learned throughout the film: generosity begets generosity, courage is its own reward, giving away things we find most precious can be the means to happiness, and—most importantly—sometimes it's not possible to convince people in power that they are being unfair and unkind, and under such circumstances it takes grace and a little bit of irony to set the situation right.
CICFF screens The Star Talers in German with English subtitles at 11:45am Thursday, October 27, at Thorne Auditorium (375 E Chicago Ave) and again at 1pm Saturday, October 29, at Max Palevsky Cinema, Ida Noyes Hall (1212 E 59th St).