Péter Miskolsczi fell in love with the script for Ruben Brandt, Collector in 2012: ‘…it was so rich in many layers, so different from any other script in my previous life.’ The film’s creative force was director, Milorad Krstic a painter, graphic artist and photographer who’s created an original and highly entertaining animation film combining thriller, fantasy, film noir and action-adventure elements.
The fast-paced action kicks off in Paris in 2012 as cat burglar Mimi becomes mesmerised by Cleopatra’s fan, which she steals instead of the Regent Diamond. Classic car and boat chases leap out of the screen as she’s pursued by her furious crime boss as well as tenacious private detective Mike Kowlaski. She seeks refuge with famed psychotherapist, Ruben Brandt, and joins his patient group of troubled thieves. The doctor has psychic trauma of his own and Brandt realises, ‘to possess your problems you have to conquer them’. Aided and abetted by his patients, he’s forced to steal thirteen paintings from the world’s renowned museums and private collections to prevent his night terrors and hallucinations. Clues are left as to the real source of Brandt’s suffering as his success as a master criminal wreaks mayhem and fear in the artworld. Kowalski tracks down the truth in an unexpected denouement, which leaves him – and the audience – reeling.
The film takes storytelling to another level by visually stunning imagery throughout the film. Krstic used a rich, exciting and unique animation style, integrating and reimagining real-life artworks to create an ever-evolving optical feast of cinematic experience. He also manages to incorporate a highly entertaining homage to the twentieth century movie world, whether it’s the truck chase from Sam Pekinpah’s Convoy (1978) or gangster noir from Coppola’s Godfather (1972). In the end, all is drawn together into a satisfying whole. As if this weren’t enough to amaze the senses, the pop culture references cover just about everything that’s to enjoy in the film’s sound track too. It’s an audio-visual symphony of delight.
Krstic was born in Slovenia and originally took a degree in Law from the University of Novi Sad in Serbia before moving to Budapest in 1989 to work as a painter and multimedia artist. For his first short animated film My Baby Left Me he was awarded with the Silver Bear of the Berlin Film Festival in 1995. Ruben Brandt, Collector is only his second work in animation film.
Krstic states his aim was to build the film on two layers. ‘The first one is an action-propelled crime story that a broader base of cinemagoers can relate to. The second layer presents a time surf over the waves of twentieth century’s art and movie world: from Caravaggio to Picasso, Eisenstein to Hitchcock, and from Elvis to Rocky…’ It’s clear that he tried to include as many references as he could, paying tribute to his most loved works of cinema and art. This has been done with wit and humour.
Miskolsczi advised, ‘seeing the film five or six times is to scratch the surface a little – twenty to thirty and a lot of things can be discovered. Nothing is incidental in this film and each image has meaning.’ It was good to hear from the producer that the Hungarian independent arthouse scene has a strong direction and that now there’s also ‘more commercial releases, many young directors and there are special programmes for them so that they can get started with a limited budget.’ As there are so many international movies, typically from the US, being created in Hungary, the Hungarian film industry has gained much in expertise and reptuation.
Since its premiere in Locarno in 2018, Ruben Brandt, Collector has been released in the US and in a number of European countries including Spain, Portugal and Hungary’s neighbouring countries – and it has just been sold in China. Happily, the working relationship between Miskolsczi and Krstic is set to continue on another film project which is currently in development.
- The screening Ruben Brandt, Collector was a collaboration between the New East cinema http://neweastcinema.com/ and the Hungarian Cultural Centre http://www.london.balassiintezet.hu/en/
- For a full list of the 120 film and music references in Ruben Brandt, Collector and more about the film see http://www.okosmozi.hu/(in Hungarian)