Dir.: Milorad Krstic; Animation with the voices of Ivan Kamaras, Gabriella Hamori, Zalan Makranczi; Hungary 2018, 96 min.
Milorad Krstic (66), director, designer and script-writer of his debut animation feature, won the Golden Bear for Best Short Film at the Berlinale in 1995. Premiering here at Locarno Film Festival Ruben Brandt is mostly hand-drawn with some CG elements and very much resembles in style and narrative of the recent Folimage animation feature A Cat in Paris , even though the tone is much darker.
Psychotherapist Ruben Brandt (Kamaras) suffers from dreams and hallucinations: He is attacked by figures from famous paintings like Velazquez’ “Infanta Margarita” and Botticelli’s “Venus”. Nevertheless, Brandt goes on treating his four patients, through role-plays of stories such as Little Riding Hood. They are all highly skilled burglars; so is Mimi (Hamori), who puts Ruben’s plan into action; he wants to possess thirteen famous paintings, so Mimi heads first to the Paris Louvre, hotly pursued by detective Kowalski (Makranczi), who has been hired by various insurance companies, who put a 100million dollar bounty on Ruben’s head. But Brandt becomes increasingly desperate, his dreams growing ever more violent. We see little Ruben, his neurologist father making him watch cartoons, a favourite is Rusalocka in “The Little Mermaid”. The thieves embark on a world cruise to steal Van Gogh’s “Postman Roulin”, Titan’s “Venus of Urbino” and Picasso’s “Woman with Book”, visiting the Uffizzi, the Hermitage, Tate and MoMA. There are flying cats, and the pictures start to interact with Ruben. In the Pantheon, Ruben is asked to participate in a Western duel, before being whisked off in a plane to Arles in Provence. Matters become even more complicated it emerges that Kowalski is Ruben’s half-brother. Their father Gerhardt was a Stasi spy who defected to the USA and worked for the CIA on neurological research. He has just died, and Kowalski’s mother tells his son, “ I had to leave your father, so you could have your own dreams”. Ruben meanwhile is meeting the painter Renoir, and is trying to unravel his father’s life. After a wild hunt, when the six are hunted down by two oil-tankers and a helicopter, the chase ends in Tokyo, during the attempted theft of the last painting, Warhol’s “Double Elvis”.
On one level Ruben Brandt is a haunt caper, one the other a trip through European film history from ‘Caligari’, Eisenstein, Hitchcock to Wenders. Krstic is clear about his intentions: “To be haunted by ghosts or zombies in nightmares is a cliché, it’s more exciting to be haunted by Velázquez’s ‘Infanta Margarita’ or Botticelli’s ‘Venus.” And paraphrasing Godard he explains his aesthetic concept: “For me drawing is imagination, and animated film is imagination twenty-four times a second.” His attempt at an ‘audio-visual symphony’ might be strange at times, but is always fascinating, and even in its most absurd moments Ruben Brandt is utterly compelling. A unique, magical, trippy experience, a throwback to the Sixties with its echoes of Pink Panther.
EIFF 19 JUNE – 30 JUNE | ANIMATION STRAND | PREMIERED AT LOCARNO INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL 2018