‘Andersartig’ by Dennis Stein-Schomberg

Dennis Stein-Schomburg’s ‘Andersartig’, the German word for different, is an elderly woman’s account of her isolated youth in a German orphanage during a World War II allied bombing campaign.

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Schomburg captures the visual essence of memory through the use of transparency, a sepia colour palette and floating camera movements that include  slightly conflicting uses of perspective. While much of the composition is left abstracted by splashed ink, these textures provide context for individual details to pop out. Recognition is owed to the director for crafting the feeling that we are experiencing the narrator’s minds eye.

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Two and three dimensional animation components are combined successfully. While the image of a fish constructed out of numbers was designed crudely and moves with an equivalent level of elegance, the dispersion of dandelion seeds give a strong impression of air currents. These airborne symbols of childhood innocence serve as an impeccable introductory device to the impending air raid. Their aimless movement and silence function as a counterpoint to the droning intentionality of the aeroplanes set on civilian devastation.

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Despite being based on a factual account, this film has a distinctly allegorical tone to it.  The first possible interpretation aligns this narrative with the age-old advice that one’s proverbial eggs should not be placed in the same basket. In case of a chance instance of damage this is a recognised method for preventing the destruction of an entire stock.

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The second interpretation I take from this account weighs more on the connection between personality and survival. The title of the film presents a girl’s isolation and separatism as the main theme. Her resistance to following the action of the cohort led to circumstances that left her living while the rest perished. This is an appealing message as there is great value placed on individuality in our society. However, I am not certain it is wise to learn from this little girl’s actions, and by default her anti-social tendencies. If these circumstances were repeated the same results would not necessarily reoccur. This woman’s mere survival grants her decision the illusion of being correct when rationally it is fair to say this chance outcome was the result of numerous arbitrary circumstances. The connection between her personality and survival could be incidental. That said it is important to remember these are simply someone’s memories and any interpretation may say more about us, the viewers, than the narrator.

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I find it intriguing to compare this film with Alex Bland’s ‘I Dreamt of Flying’, an animated documentary I reviewed for this blog back in June. Bland presents the other side of the story, the accounts of British and American bomber pilots that described raids over Germany. While Bland steers away from the civilian casualties associated with these attacks, there is little engagement with the wider context of war in Schomburg’s film.

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‘Andersartig’ was brought to our attention by Florian Maubach, the director of ‘Iki – See you soon’ which I wrote about back in August. Maubach and Schomburg are both students from the University of Art and Design in Kessel. Dennis now works freelance as an animator and graphic designer.

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‘I Dreamt of Flying’ by Alex Bland

Alex Bland conjures the atmosphere of wartime Britain in this nostalgic exploration of the R.A.F.’s Bomber Command, a battalion charged with the treacherous task of attacking German targets at the dead of night. Set out in a roughly chronological narrative, archive recordings and contemporary interviews with ex-crew members narrate the early stages of excitement during enlisting, followed by the eventual reality of the mission.

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A great strength of this film is its ability to adjust tone by changing medium.  Alex Bland begins by adopting the aesthetic of wartime enrolment poster design. Using this style as a starting point he continues to masterfully employ a multitude of techniques; combining rotoscoped hand painted animation, laid over textured backgrounds and combined with elements of archive footage. CGI, 2D digital, collage and hand painted components support the diverse imagery in this accomplished animated documentary. Bland presents a particularly beautiful archive description of a raid that took place through a wall of searchlights. This stimulated a distinctively pleasing scene that is almost abstract in its formal arrangement barring the silhouette of the plane.

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In another scene that is set to the visuals of a comic scrip, an American pilot gives an account of an effective raid over Berlin, which is almost flippant. His account is detached entirely from the deadly result of the mission, instead he includes phrases like; “I could see the bombs going down very nicely… I enjoyed it very much”. This film does not address the more contentious nature of the task these pilots were charged with. Essentially they were enforcing the British equivalent of the Blitz, dropping bombs that would inevitably cause civilian casualties. I was left speculating whether this issue was not dealt with because it was not a problem for the airmen interviewed. They may have felt it was their duty and possibly even a fair one in the context of war. However I also wondered if the filmmaker’s nostalgia for the subject matter pushed the narrative away from such controversy. Bland explains in concluding titles that the film is dedicated to his Grandfather along with the other men from the Bomber Command killed in the Second World War. An additional puzzling note states that none of the airmen set with this duty were ever commemorated with a medal for their bravery.

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This film manages to capture effectively the naïve feeling of excitement at the beginning of the war, a sense of camaraderie felt between the airmen along with the drama and the formal beauty found in such destruction. The film addresses the tragedy associated with loss of life in the Bomber Command whilst maintaining a traditional lack of emotion associated with the British spirit’s stiff upper lip. As the narrative was constructed from half a dozen different accounts a sort of cross chattering effect distracts from an otherwise clear narrative.  This is however an acceptable side effect when collating such a multitude of sources. ‘I Dreamt of Flying’ has collected an award from the Imperial War Museum  and received the staff pick from Vimeo. Animated Documentary found this film on the vimeo channel Doco-anim.