Kill It and Leave This Town review – gaunt beauty amid the smoky smudge of memory


Critical discussion of animation has recently turned on comparing the Disney and Pixar traditions with that of Studio Ghibli in Japan, and the very different kinds of beauty that they achieve. But here is a reminder of a another animation tradition that hails from Poland and central Europe, in the form of a feature from the Polish veteran Mariusz Wilczyński; it is raw, rough, fragmented, angry, often brilliant with its own kind of aesthetic brusquery and pain. This is not animation which is there to exalt, or soothe, or celebrate human loveliness: it is animation which takes a fiercely miserable satirical stab at the world and itself, a language which is unreconciled, unaccommodated. Wilczyński serves up brutal images, often drawn on lined paper, for all the world as if that was the only thing to hand when he decided to spill his imaginative guts.

Kill It and Leave This Town is ostensibly Wilczyński’s memory, or bad dream, about his parents; there is a particular episode when his dad took him for a day trip to the seaside and forgot to phone his wife to say they had arrived safely, triggering a spasm of anxiety on her part and making this day out a festival of bad feeling. The mysterious theatre of tatty trains is very important, as is the murky landscape of cities, which will be fitfully (but weirdly beautifully) decorated with points of light within the witch’s broom of stark lines or the smoky smudge: neon letters or street lamps.

Great, gaunt ugly faces will loom up out of the screen and stay there immobile, or rather throbbing with the old-fashioned drawing style. Wilczyński sees the food offered at a delicatessen morphing into human body parts. This film is at its most uncompromising as the director imagines the death in hospital of his elderly mother, and gives us a long, clear look at her parodic, extreme nakedness in death, as her genitalia are sewn up and her anus plugged.

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Here is the Neue Sachlichkeit reborn; yet the realism is overwritten by something hallucinatory and nihilistic, but also funny in a bleak Beckettian sort of way. You can watch this film often without being quite sure what is happening or who exactly the various figures are: it is a kind of sleep-talking cinema, a cinema which splurges up scrambled messages from the unconscious, which have their own dark mysterious poetry.



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