Entertainment, Review

Edinburgh International Film Festival 2016: Aloys

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By Zoe Turner

“That party outside, where I’m not invited… I don’t want to be invited. It’s not worth it, I’ve been observing it for long enough. Every party must come to an end, and left behind are lonely people… I’d rather stay here.”

Reminiscent of Spike Jonze’s Her and Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s Amelie, Tobias Nolle’s Aloys is a beautiful story of two people struggling against isolation; it is brimming with the fear, desperation and irony often attributed to such independent or commercial features driven by our human need for something or someone else.

Aloys is a private investigator, who occupies himself with other people’s affairs to avoid having to involve himself in any of his own. Known by the people around him to be completely withdrawn, Aloys finds that the death of his father only confirms his reasons for remaining so. Thus, he contents himself by watching his films back, especially the ones of animals, or his father playing the piano.

One of the opening scenes of the film introduces Aloys while he records on camera his dead father in his open casket, laying down the offbeat humour that runs parallel to the depiction of raw emotion. Another device used to stimulate this pairing is a little Japanese girl who follows Aloys around, fully aware of his hermit status, accusing him of stealing missing cats and meowing at him through his front door.

The settings and the sounds of the film are perfectly minimalistic, so that the silence in Aloys’ flat is only disturbed by his cat lapping its water, and the rain on the bus window can be heard pouring to accentuate his loneliness.

The real drama begins when one of Aloys’ neighbours, Vera (whom he ignores when she asks him for his vacuum cleaner, instead just filming her through the spy hole in his door) steals his surveillance equipment while he is sleeping on a bus, leaving him with only a tape to watch of himself sleeping whilst this takes place. The woman then calls him, proposing that they “phone walk” together, and threatens to show the subjects of his films what he has recorded of them if he doesn’t comply.

Phone walking, Vera explains, is the art of spending time together through sounds and descriptions on the phone; it’s much like phone sex, without the sex. Aloys, only seeing her as a threat to his solitude and his business, is furious and reluctant to join her. As Vera pushes him, he begins to try, and so the imaginary scenes start of the two of them in a forest. However, at this point, with Aloys’ heart far from in it, he finds it difficult and tells Vera to throw herself under a train before hanging up.

Aloys’ perceptions of Vera change when he receives a voicemail from her, apologising for her game and explaining that she just wanted to talk. This message is swiftly followed by Aloys finding Vera being wheeled out of the apartment on a stretcher, and overhearing the people who found her discussing how she had tried to kill herself.

After this, Aloys waits for Vera to come back, and when she does they start to phone walk together properly: him from his apartment, her from her hospital room. This is when Vera starts to bring Aloys out of his shell, into reality; he starts to let her and even other people into his life, if only in the form of fantasy.

The acting from both Georg Friedrich and Tilde von Overbeck is mesmerising throughout, as the audience starts to phone walk with them at their party, and the unreal becomes so real it is hard to distinguish between the two. However, Vera’s state starts to deteriorate as she realises that this is exactly what Aloys’ cannot distinguish, and that he doesn’t really know her at all. The viewer is repeatedly left with a striking image of Aloys in he and Vera’s forest, the phone line tangled right around the tree after she hangs up, Aloys alone.

Vera, of course, is right; Aloys becomes so absorbed by the imaginary Vera, that he cannot get involved with the real one out of dread of real loss. As Aloys himself says, “Every party must come to an end, and left behind are lonely people.”

When the real Vera turns up at Aloys’ door, he instead runs after her fantasized counterpart, but on the balcony he has an abrupt, bold realisation. He leaves imaginary Vera to fall off the balcony in the form of his curtain, floating down in a tender, white portrayal of letting go.

Aloys is a poetic feature that examines the heart of the solitary, with both their reasons and their anticipations. A flawless example of the uncertainty that follows the risk of companionship.

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