Director – Mariusz Wilczynski– 2020 – Poland – 88m
From the Annecy 2020 Online Animation Festival
From its opening of a man smoking in the dark to its closing image of giants tied down on a beach like felled Gullivers in Lilliput, this is awash with the sort of gloomy imagery readily associated with East European art pictures. That’s not to say it isn’t highly effective though. Set partly in a grey, heavily industrialised town where chimneys constantly belch out smoke and partly in a seaside resort, it has a narrative through line but constantly weaves around that with a series of episodes, dreams and memories. Nevertheless it possesses its own, coherent inner logic.
An old woman (Krystyna Janda) wishes her husband (Andrzej Chyra) goodbye as he takes their son Janek (Maja Ostaszewska) out. Later she visits the shops where, although she makes a point of explaining that she has the correct change, no one seems to be interested in actually serving her. Indeed, these are strange shops. Sometimes the fishmonger’s assistant (Malgorzata Kozuchowska) guts fish and sometimes she guts little humans who are around the same size.
At one point a man (Daniel Olbrychski) whose hat conceals that he has the head of a cat delivers an unsettling line about his purposes in the world to do with power, evil and good.
Meanwhile Mariusz, voiced by the director himself, regularly visits his dying, rambling mother. Before then, Mariusz dances with the old woman in a seedy nightclub where she seems to revert to being a small child. Later on the train to the seaside he gets embroiled in a lengthy conversation with a man wearing a medal and reading a newspaper (Andrzej Wadja) who insists Mariusz speak quietly so as not to wake his sleeping wife. A severed head (Zbigniew Rybcynski) repeatedly makes strange, pronouncements which only make sense later in the film.
Wilczynski spent more than a decade animating the film, much of it by himself although he assembled an extraordinary Polish voice cast including legendary directors (Wadja, Rybcynski) and actors (Janda) through a desire to preserve them on film. The animation is drawn on whatever paper was to hand – one scene has a background comprising several different sheets while another is animated on lined paper. The drawings and animation are often harsh and crude in style, but that only seems to add to their primal power. After a while, you get used to the bleak mood and look of the piece although it never loses the ability to provoke, upset and shock.
The level of visual invention is high throughout and there’s always something arresting to see, from an area of rain illuminated by a street light through a man with three dogs on leads cornering a rat (briefly evoking the Hey Bulldog sequence from Yellow Submarine, George Dunning, 1968) to a woman stitching up a garment later revealed to be a dead woman’s body.
Much of the proceedings are underscored by the memorable electric blues guitar music of the late Tadeusz Nalepa and his band Breakout which adds considerably to the overall mood.
This extraordinary film deserves wide, international, art house distribution.
Kill It And Leave This Town plays in the Annecy Animation Festival which is taking place in a special online edition this year right now. Here’s the trailer:
Annecy Animation Festival special online edition:
Monday, June 15th to Tuesday, June 30th.