I wouldn’t be able to tell you what is the plot of Kill it and leave this town (director: Mariusz Wilczynski), winner of the Jury Distinction in Annecy’s official feature competition. I’m not sure there is a plot. I was often confused about who the different characters were and what were the different intersecting timelines. I thought I’d be honest about that from the beginning, because talking about experimental art films all too often involves an „Emperor’s new clothes” syndrome of pretending you’ve figured it all out.
I may not have understood a lot, but I did feel many things watching this film: sadness, dread, disgust, empathy, mild amusement at times, and a variety of other, unnamed feelings. Is there a word for the feeling you have when you imagine your parents as young people, for example?
The empty space left behind by a dead friend; despair at the passage of time and the inevitable decay of human bodies; embarrassment at witnessing the familiarity, affection and resentment of old married people; the sharp anxiety of seeing a child in distress: Mariusz Wilczynski’s creation made me feel all of these and much more. I was moved to tears by a scene depicting a mundane conversation between Mariusz (?) and his dying elderly mother. Kill it and leave this town often sticks a claw in your heart and you don’t even know how it did it.
The animation is made of scratchy line drawings, lit by neon glow and the fading light of a perpetual dawn, or sunset, or both; the soundtrack is populated by melancholic rock songs composed by an artist who (as I understand) passed away before he could see the finished product. This is a more of a mood than a movie, like the ending of a party where everyone still there is now drunk, apathetic and depressed, but the music is still playing.
Have I written a positive review? I’m not sure either, but I think I might have. A film like no other, in any case- but I wouldn’t want to see it twice.
If I was to choose a film from the short programme to pair Kill it and leave this town with at a real-life screening, the way Pixar screens a short before its features, it would be Homeless home (director: Alberto Vazquez), winner of the shorts competition’s Jury Award.
Vazquez’s short is not just dark, both visually and in subject matter, it’s actually disturbing in a way that stuck with me long after I watched it. The setting of the story is a place inhabited by witches, ghosts, orcs and other fantasy/fairytale creatures, but that’s not where the creepiness comes from. If anything, the characters are almost unbearably human, tormented by vices like alcoholism, stuck in abusive relationships or bullied ‘at work’, possessed by a sense of despair because their dreams have died and their lives (or after-lives?) have amounted to nothing. They may be monsters, or even dead already, but their unhappiness and alienation looks all too familiar. Good stuff, if you can handle it.
The 2020 Annecy International Animated Film Festival takes place online until June 30th.