As dark as the walnut wood it is crafted from. A serious, moral vision, with humour more often in form of black bile than even the most rasping of laughs. The rape and murder of the young woman is deeply upsetting, speaking to the simple power of puppets when infused with even the most mechanical of humanity. One of the most coherent and materially grounded nightmares in animation.
Greedy townsfolk presented as fittings of a Gothic-Expressionist cuckoo clock – rather genius. But the use of dead rats, not to mention living ones, all too visibly abused, plunges it all into abysmal. And the hints of Jesus Christ in the Piper character, basically a mass killer, add insult to the already fatal injury.
A nightmarish adaptation of this classic fairy tale; its visual style heavily homages German Expressionist cinema, capturing the German spirit. It slightly stands as being a social commentary of the grotesqueness and greed of people in modern society. Jiri Barta literally does this by his design of his puppet characters in contrast of the rats being all too real. Then again the townsfolk are too much like the rats.