Publish Date: July 16, 2015
Author: Boyd van Hoeij
„A ruthlessly anti-Communist Pole escapes to Paris in the 1960s and ends up fighting the Soviets alongside the mujahideen in Afghanistan in the 1980s in The Magic Mountain, a mixed-media animated film from Romanian director Anca Damian. The second part of a trilogy dedicated to heroism, after her Locarno entry Crulic: The Path to Beyond, this is again something of an adult-oriented animated documentary in the sense that it chronicles the extraordinary life of someone who actually existed. After twin premieres at Annecy and Karlovy Vary, this beautifully assembled but narratively diffuse Mountain will move on to other festivals but faces an uphill battle for any kind of commercial release beyond Romania, Poland and France, where the film was produced.
The film dives straight into the turbulent life of Adam Jacek Winkler (voiced by Christophe Miossec in the French version, Jean-Marc Barr in the English version), a free spirit who left Poland during the Communist era for Paris, where he worked as a black-market painter. Several of his family members were killed in the 1940 Katyn Massacre by the Red Army, when he was just two years old, which seems to have instilled a lifelong hatred of the Communists.
These facts need to be distilled from a very messy first couple of reels, which is light on facts — the significance of Katyn is not explored or contextualized, for example — and which instead unfolds as a series of back-and-forths between Adam and his daughter, Anna (voiced by Lizzie Brochere in both versions), who actually co-wrote the film with Damian. The early going is somewhat structured by a list of the rules of survival — “Rule one: Don’t die, if possible” –though like Anna’s comments, or the character of Anna’s mother, who ends up in prison when trying to smuggle things back into Poland, this idea appears and is just as suddenly dropped as the film advances.”
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