‘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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Iki – See you soon (Iki – Bis bald) by Florian Maubach

Florian Maubach documents his bicycle journey from Kassel, Germany, to the coast of Lithuania. In one minute twenty Maubach convinces us of his reverence for landscape, passion for adventure and artistic dynamism.

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The viewer adopts a satellite perspective while the surroundings immediately visible to the cyclist distort into a miniature globe. This frenetically changing sphere helps communicate the joy associated with propelling ones self across great distances.

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Further definition is added to his activities and various modes of transport through clear and simple sound design, avoiding the use of a narrator. For instance, his passage through the town of Palanga is punctuated by both the name appearing briefly across the skyline and a ringing of his bell. The visual emphasis placed on the movement of the sun and the moon helps abbreviate the passage of time in this very short film.

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In the final moments Maubach breaches the realism of his constructed universe by having the character jump up from the sea, cling on to the sun, plunging the world into darkness. It might be fair for one to assume this is a playful metaphor gesturing the traveller’s triumph over nature.  While this decision reduces the film’s authority as a descriptive document, its location at the very end minimises such an effect. As credits are bound to break all cinematic illusions, this filmmaker seems to have recognised an opportunity for conceptual freedom in the seconds beforehand.

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The 2012 student film, made at Kunsthochschule in Kassel, has screened at 14 festivals across Germany and the rest of Europe. I found the cheerful simplicity of concept and execution in this film resonant and refreshing.