MIFF 2012: Alois Nebel
August 16th 2012 03:17
It's the late 1980's and the train depot in the sleepy Czech village of Bily Potok is a haunted place. In a recurring image, a train from the past hurtles into the station with a ghostly cargo aboard, relentlessly tunnelling through the hallucinatory memory of stationmaster Alois Nebel (Miroslav Krobot). After an incident involving a troubled derelict mute with a haunted past of his own, Nebel’s job is taken from him: he’s sent to an asylum for radical ‘treatment’ before fleeing to Prague where his indifference to life is met with an iron wall of anonymous disregard – except in the case of a lone caring voice, that of widow Kveta (Marie Ludvikova) .
The political dimensions of Tomas Lunak’s impressive debut feature are occasionally unsubtle but the humane core grounding his main character maintains a remarkable visual and tonal consistency. Nebel, a creation of graphic novelists Jaromír Svejdík and Jaroslav Rudis, is a strangely compelling character, if impenetrable and stoical to a fault. These traits make it all the more rewarding when progress is made in his interactions with the lonely Kveta; they are at once inadvertently therapeutic and symbolic of a generation’s attempts to negate a troubled past and the personal demons that have beaten down but never broken Nebel.
The rotoscope animation of Alois Nebel (2011) is wonderfully evocative with a dark, austere allure; the impression is of a monochrome relation to Ari Folman’s Waltz with Bashir (2008). Lunak’s direction is superb, always intent on utilising meaningful silences to loudest effect. Glances, recollections, repetitions: all are used as carefully modulating narrative tools, providing well-earned reward by the affectingly cathartic finale.
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