Directed by Eeva Mägi
Haunting Estonian semi-documentary in which a man in his 50s tells the stories of the schoolmates he lost to alcoholism, re-framed as a folk story about their possession and destruction by the Bottle Demon. The narrator takes us to the locations of each part of his story as the slowly tracking camera explores the environs, usually areas of natural beauty but sometimes the abandoned homes of his deceased friends. Tanel Kadelipp’s distorted guitar lurks in the background of these stories as a brooding presence before rearing and wreaking aural devastation. This presence is gone in the final section, replaced by a more contemplative and peaceful sound as the narrator takes us on a tour of graves before retreating into a seaside landscape.
Curiosity about this short film was my primary motivation in purchasing a ticket to this session. My enjoyment of it more than outweighs my disappointment with the main feature.
Directed by Mariusz Wilczyński
This is an intensely personal work from Polish animator Mariusz Wilczyński, a feature-length film which took 14 years to complete. The animation is hand-drawn and must have been painstakingly constructed frame by frame. There are times when the background surrounding the animation has the texture of rumpled paper, drawing attention to the technique – more often the backgrounds are formed from painted textures with the animation running over a separate layer. Some sequences layer different 2-dimensional planes of drawings moving independently, with shadows (computer-generated?) carefully added to create a sense of depth in the frame. On a purely technical basis, this is an astonishing achievement for a single creator.
Unfortunately I had a great deal of difficulty connecting to this movie and I couldn’t really find anything in it to latch onto. Wilczyński’s art style is ugly (not necessarily a problem for me) and suits the ugliness of the material. The film seems to portray a sort of anti-nostalgia, a look back at the rosy memories of the past to see that they’re all tarnished with petty and not-so-petty cruelties. At least some of the elements in the film come from the animator’s own life – he’s inserted himself into the film as a character (sometimes a giant) who, in his first appearance in the film, can barely bring himself to have a conversation with his grandmother, dying in a hospital bed, not even to discuss the film he’s working on.
During this section, Wilczyński reluctantly tells his mother that Tadeusz Nalepa has agreed to provide music for the film, an element which anchors the film even more firmly in a past of regret given that he’s represented here by music from his 1970s blues rock band and died in 2007, soon after the film was begun. The infrequent appearance of his music (and the work of other musicians within the same style) provides the only elements of the film which don’t appear to wallow in ugliness – these are the only times when nostalgia conveys positive feelings, if frequently tinged with melancholy.
It’s difficult for me to provide a fair assessment of this film, as I often found my thoughts drifting away in rejection of what was in front of me, so I may well have missed some nuances which would soften my opinion. Apart from some surreal interjections which were particularly well handled, I have to throw up my hands and admit that this particularly personal journey just wasn’t for me.