Zdenek Miler, “The Mole and the Medicine / Krtek a medicina / Kiskavond es a gyogyszer” (1987)
Found on Youtube under its Hungarian title, this episode of the Krtecek series sees our hero off to foreign lands and climes in search of a herbal medicine to cure his friend Mouse of a high fever. Doctor Owl diagnoses a bad cold and prescribes matricaria and chamomile as the cure so Krtek eagerly sets off in search of the herbs. His journey takes him to Africa where he has many adventures with a lion, a giraffe, an elephant, a caterpillar and a carnivorous plant. A hot-air balloon sends him to Australia, land of rabbits, kangaroos and a polar bear that’s just run away from the zoo. A whale carries them both to the polar regions where the bear introduces Krtek to his wife and kids. They pop him on an ice floe and send him off to yet another foreign country where he comes across a conservatory looked after by a caretaker mole. His new best friend takes him to the airport and sends him home. Safely back in his own community, Krtek informs Doctor Owl that his journey to find the herbs has been in vain, only to be told that the matricaria and chamomile are growing beside his little mole mound! Happy at last, Krtek brews a herbal drink for Mouse and the two pals are soon reunited.
The episode is an opportunity for Miler and his team to show off their skill at painting plants in their two-dimensional details, yet not so technically exact that the plants threaten to steal the show from Krtek. The Venus fly-trap comes close to upstaging our hero but it’s all in good fun. The film’s original plot shines especially in the links between one country and the next: Krtek does good deeds for fish trapped in a basket and a caterpillar trapped in rapids and he is repaid in kind. Strange creatures big and small offer him hospitality and do all they can to help him though they haven’t a clue what matricaria and chamomile might be. A really loopy moment comes when he sniffs an orange flower and the perfume sends him floating (and later an elephant) up to the heavens – literally. Dialogue as usual is kept to the minimum needed for the film – “Hallo!”, “Ahoy!” and “Chamomila?” are the words heard most often. The music is gentle and relaxed and the accordion melody reminds me of old cartoons set in Gay Paris or the French Riviera of the 1950s though Krtek never goes anywhere near La Belle France.
The highlight of the film really is the flora featured as Krtek examines each and every flower and herb he sees, and every plant seems to have its own individuality no matter how simply it is portrayed. Insects are also among the stars here and even an octopus gets a shoo-in.
If there’s a message for families and small children, it is that one should never be afraid to ask for help and to venture afar to help a good friend, and one can have fun and make new friends no matter how different they are. A very beautiful and endearing film about a resourceful and fearless little animal, “The Mole and the Medicine” is highly recommended viewing.