One of the great things about cinema is that it becomes your reality for the length of a film, no matter how surreal or fantastic, weird or artificial it presents itself. In the case of animated pictures you are even looking at a painted reality which can still be more touching and thrilling, exciting and, in fact, close to life than a regular film. This week’s film tip, Alois Nebel, was made with the special method of roboscobing, which consists of taking previously shot real film material and repainting it (almost) frame by frame and then putting it together as an animated film. The result of this is visually stunning. What’s more, Alois Nebel is the translation of a story that is taken from a graphic novel, originally set in the real world and then put into a very special film.
It’s the year 1989 and we are at a remote train station in Sudetenland, a part of Czech Republic, in which many Germans lived until the Russian occupation that followed the Second World War. Two lonely men haunt the scene and, though their story will not be revealed until later, but both of them share a traumatic experience with which they haven’t come to terms. Alois Nebel, the old and tired station worker, only seems to have his job and this job seems to turn into an obsession as a way to forget the past. Whenever a train passes, bright flashes pierce through the room and shake the furniture and Nebel’s memory. It doesn’t take long until Alois Nebel is sent to a sanatorium in which the bright and merciless flashes of electroshock therapy will change him for some time but won’t make him forget the things he has seen.
Like Ari Folman’s Waltz with Bashir, Alois Nebel is not suitable for a young audience because it is often dark, sometimes brutal, and deals with reality in a way that is unambiguously adult. It is hard to pin the film down to a genre, though. In many ways, you might call it a thriller, or even a melodrama, but it also combines parts of a (beautifully told) love story with a revenge story which goes back to the forced migration of the German population after the War. All this sounds like a somewhat action-packed narration, but Alois Nebel’s greatest strength lies in its quiet moments and the slow pace.
Director Tomás Lunák understands how to build up tension and circles around his anti-hero by giving his audience time to feast on the images and become part of the enigmatic twilight world of a man whose present is determined by the past. Alois Nebel’s universe of blacks and whites, rough shadows, and fine fogs is truly enjoyable to watch despite the harsh historic realities the film tackles. The animations are accompanied by an amazing sound design that makes you forget that doves you see are in fact drawn and that the fireworks that explode or the guns that are fired are in fact not real. But then again, what is reality, when it comes to cinema? The answer is that cinema itself is reality and one wonderful example of that reality is Alois Nebel, a once real and now animated film that you shouldn’t miss.
Alois Nebel, Czech Republic/ Germany, 2011, 84 min.
director: Tomáš Luňák, languages: Czech, distibution: Neue Visionen/ Pallas
Berlin screenings: Acudkino (Original version with subtitles), Central, Moviemento
Director Tomáš Luňák will be present: Acud, 16.12., 7 pm