Published Sep 19, 2011Based on the graphic novel of the same name, the bleak and strangely haunting Alois Nebel uses black and white rotoscopic animation to capture both the aesthetic of the original text and the tone of a story that links the modern Czech Republic to the past through railway tracks and political change.
It's a complex work, connecting the history of the Central European region to modern displacement and anarchic sensibilities, made simple by ethereal, languid imagery that captures the essence of every lingering image of snow-covered landscapes and stark environments.
Flashing back to a WWII conflict and the many border crossings in Berlin in 1989, the story focuses on the titular Alois Nebel (Miroslav Krobot), a quiet railway dispatcher located at a small station in the Sudeten, near the borders of Germany and Poland.
Institutionalized when events from his past – and the geographic past, as indicated metaphorically by the connecting railways and constant train imagery, channelling Closely Watched Trains – drive him mad, he leaves years later to find the world a very different place that no longer has a use for him.
But this isn't just a despondent look at politics, as there is a sliver of hope when Alois meets the widowed Kveta (Marie Ludvíková), which also adds an element of peril and tension when their lives intersect with a Polish murderer with his own link to the past.
Because there are many layers and themes peppered throughout these plot points and storylines, we're left with more to consider than the compelling animation and constant storms acknowledging the recent flood devastation in the area.
It could be problematic for some viewers that the greater appreciation for this text requires some historical knowledge going in, but the humanistic element and natural flow of the piece work well enough to compensate.
Sure to strike a chord with certain viewers and stand the test of time, Alois Nebel is an impressive and thoughtful work from a new filmmaker to keep an eye on. (Match Factory)