Brisby e il segreto di NIMH

The Secret of NIMH is a 1982 animated movie produced by Don Bluth Productions and Aurora and based on the novel by Robert C. O’Brien, Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH. It tells about the adventures of a country mouse and her innumerable offspring. It’s another small masterpiece, one that deserves to be brought back for our segment, Forgotten Memories.

The Secret of NIMH – Plot

Brisby e il segreto di NIMH
Poster – The Secret of NIMH

Brisby, a little widower mouse with a large family of country mice who live underneath a farming land, finds herself in a serious bind when the owner of the fields decides to plough deep into the soil before the arrival of spring. The move is made even more difficult by the fact that one of the mice, tiny Timothy, is very sick and can’t be displaced.

Review

There is definitely no doubt that The Secret of NIMH is a very touching movie but at the same time, it presents some very dark atmospheres. The tiny protagonist finds herself in the middle of a series of huge adventures trying to save her family. All of this with the help of a clumsy crow and a group of strange mice from NIMH.

One tiny world

The entire movie is from the point of view of the small Brisby and for that reason we found ourselves facing a world of obstacles, a world that is extremely gigantic in her eyes. The garden already appears as a huge and endless forest full of dangers and obstacles, one of which is represented by the farmer himself and his plough, together with his big and fat house cat. Things that should seem easy end up being terrifying, but Brisby will try to invoke all her courage so she can save her child and her family. She will even have to travel to meet the Great Owl, well-aware of the fact that owls eat country mice.

The movie shows a fairly realistic portrayal of the world as seen by small animals, a whole life striving for survival that, from the height of our arrogance, we will never be able to fully understand. Our selfishness makes us blind to how these creatures are not that different from us and how they just desire a peaceful life in their own habitat. When young Fitzgibbons tears her away from her world and shuts her in a cage, it’s a sad fate for a mouse who has always lived in freedom and who is taken away from her family while knowing that her offspring, out there somewhere, are risking their lives and survival.

“My child, we can no longer live as rats.”

Nicodemus da Brisby e il Segreto di NIMH
Nicodemus the rat from The Secret of NIMH

The rats of NIMH are feared, or rather, treated with distrust by the other animals of the countryside. That’s because they appear deeply different in their abilities and their way of life. These animals owe their condition to a life lived in suffering in a laboratory that changed their cognitive abilities and made them, so to say, “intelligent”.

However, that shouldn’t be seen as a good thing. These rats have lost their true nature and what was their place in the world, to the point where they’ve had to found a kind of alternative society and are forced to hide from even their own kin.

All of this without even considering how much they had to suffer during the time they spent at the laboratory, used as test subjects to satisfy man’s hunger for knowledge.

In the beginning, we were ordinary street rats, stealing our daily bread and living off the efforts of man’s work.

We were captured, put in cages, and sent to a place called NIMH.

There were many animals there…in cages. They were put through the most unspeakable tortures to satisfy some scientific curiosity.

Often at night I would hear them, crying out in anguish.

Uno dei ratti del NIMH da Brisby e il Segreto di NIMH
One of NIMH’s rats from The Secret of NIMH

Nicodemus’ words make us think, more than a little, about the conditions of these rats specifically. However, it’s a conversation that could be extended to include all kinds of lab animals that every day have to live the same treatment that we’re shown in the movie.

Once again, therefore, we’re forced to face the selfishness of mankind. We see ourselves as above all other creatures, as if they have no value at all to us, as if they don’t suffer and don’t deserve to live just as much as we do.

It would seem kind of strange to talk about animal rights in 1982, or even earlier than that in 1971 when the original book was published. And yet, who could possibly deny that this movie has a message that is deeply linked with animal rights activism? Any adult watching it would be able to make the connection, but it’s just as likely that it would give a child a bigger sensitivity towards the sad destiny these creatures face.

A forgotten memory

Unfortunately, like many other animated movies, Brisby seems to have been mostly forgotten. It’s also almost impossible to buy this movie anywhere unless one it’s already used. It’s a real shame because we’re certain that this film still has a lot to say and to teach, and it could be especially enjoyed even by newer generations.

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