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Kill It and Leave This Town. 2020. Poland. Directed by Mariusz Wilczyński. In Polish; English subtitles. 88 min.
Polish writer-director Mariusz Wilczynski credits a 2006 MoMA retrospective of his early short films with inspiring him to create this uniquely autobiographical animated feature. Eleven years in production, this dreamlike meditation on age and loss doesn’t shy away from visualizing the painful and grotesque nature of memory. Bringing forth people, places, and incidents from a past “still alive” in his imagination, Wilczynski immediately establishes the dark tone of his episodic recollections with a fearsome sequence of live fish and human corpses being coolly dismembered for sale in a neighborhood shop. Reminders that his vision is handcrafted and surreal recur pointedly throughout the film—and are among its singular pleasures. The bleak nocturnal machinery of Lodz, his ghostly hometown, comes alive on a drawing board with the taped-together paper seams and mechanics of its animation showing. Picturing himself as a giant serves as a moving and frightening conceit, allowing him to lumber through scenes to spy on a sad childhood Christmas through a third-story window, wade through the ocean to observe his parents’ shipboard courtship, and sulk over his mother’s deathbed. Voiced by an ensemble cast that includes famed director Andrzei Wajda and scored with blues songs by the late Tadeusz Nalepa, the film works as an innovative form of dramatized self-therapy clearly arising from “deep need.” By turns beautiful and horrific, sentimental and scatological, melodramatic and contemplative, Kill It ends serenely with a vision of the hereafter: bundled bodies silently at rest in a snowy seascape.
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