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Alois Nebel2011

  • 3.8
Inspired by classic film noir and rendered in mesmerizing black-and-white rotoscope animation (à la Richard Linklater's WAKING LIFE), this dark-hearted Czech drama traces the haunted memories and mysterious visions of a troubled train dispatcher through the shifting cultural and political landscape during the waning days of the Cold War. Preferring timetables to people, Alois Nebel leads a quiet life at a remote railway station on the Czech-Slovak border, disrupted only by the fog that brings hallucinations of trains from the past 100 years. Ghosts from Central Europe's dark past (Nazi occupation, transportation of Jews, communists' revenge on the Germans) ultimately send him on a nightmarish and ominous journey. ALOIS NEBEL is based on Jaroslav Rudis and Jaromír 99's comic book trilogy that was the first modern comic published in the Czech Republic.

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3 members like this review

Set in what is now the Czech Republic at the end of Communist rule, "Alois Nebel" examines the haunted lives of those scarred by World War II, the Holocaust, and the forty-plus years of authoritarian rule and local thuggery that followed those cataclysms. The titular main character is a Czech railroad man who lives and works at a small rural train station somewhere outside of Prague. He lives alone, has a pet outdoor cat, speaks little, keeps close track of the train schedules, and has some interesting memories.

This film is based on a series of graphic novels; the artwork and animation are top-notch, particularly the character drawing. In subject matter and approach, "Alois Nebel" makes an interesting companion work to Art Spiegelman's "Maus" series, especially since so little is known still of the legacy of the Holocaust in the Eastern European countries occupied by Hitler and then dominated from afar by the USSR. The film does not cover the Holocaust specifically, but its shadow over the story's events is unmistakable.

I can't recommend this movie highly enough, particularly for European history buffs or graphic novel enthusiasts.

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Member Reviews (6)

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top reviewer

Set in what is now the Czech Republic at the end of Communist rule, "Alois Nebel" examines the haunted lives of those scarred by World War II, the Holocaust, and the forty-plus years of authoritarian rule and local thuggery that followed those cataclysms. The titular main character is a Czech railroad man who lives and works at a small rural train station somewhere outside of Prague. He lives alone, has a pet outdoor cat, speaks little, keeps close track of the train schedules, and has some interesting memories.

This film is based on a series of graphic novels; the artwork and animation are top-notch, particularly the character drawing. In subject matter and approach, "Alois Nebel" makes an interesting companion work to Art Spiegelman's "Maus" series, especially since so little is known still of the legacy of the Holocaust in the Eastern European countries occupied by Hitler and then dominated from afar by the USSR. The film does not cover the Holocaust specifically, but its shadow over the story's events is unmistakable.

I can't recommend this movie highly enough, particularly for European history buffs or graphic novel enthusiasts.

3 members like this review

Well portrayed characters, the script is terse and minimal, the visuals are striking, B&W, noirish, and spare. The film is a neorealist, episodic view of eastern European low life in a post-National-Socialist, post-Marxist, dystopia. Well worth the seeing.

1 member likes this review

The politics might be a bit eliptical for foreigners, but the film is quite engrossing and very touching, without ever being maudlin.

1 member likes this review
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They say that the Inuits have hundreds of words for snow to describe its texture, its color or its temperature. There are thousands of shades of black in this animation from ashy grays to india kohl black to even the depths of japanese ink. The variations easily make this noir film 3D and often almost lifelike in its saturation. The textures of the drawings are fabulous even if what the world the images depict reveals the utter banality of socialist realism. The oppression, the constant scrutiny by neighbors, the ever watchful police presence and the total lack of privacy suck the air out of this world. Every one knows your business and they all think you are criminally implicated in treachery to the state. The heaviness and clarity of the black and white imagery is a psychedelic jail but the story is so tedious , so dreary that not even the hint of a smile at the end warms you. Gorgeous technically but sad to watch.

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This charcoal universe is a little too desperately overweening for my taste. It's existential and emblematic and feverishly tugging at your sleeve for recognition: "Oh, a metaphor!" I had my coffee on standby, let me tell you.

Visually arresting and deeply sensitive. The rotoscope technique, which is here used in black and white, is particularly well-suited to the dreary, cold settings, many of which involve trains and train stations (in fact this is one of the best train-porn flicks I've ever seen). The only reason I don't give the film five stars is that the story is quite hard to follow (possibly not in Czech, but certainly if you're restricted to the English subtitles). I highly recommend consulting the film's English website before viewing, to get you grounded in who's who. Don't use IMDB or Wikipedia--whoever wrote those entries got the plot wrong!