‘Beau is afraid’ by Ari Aster is one of the most original films of the year and in its central part it has a 10-minute trip to an animated world within a play composed by the Chilean animators and filmmakers Joaquín Cociña and Cristóbal León . The duo is known for ‘The Wolf House’ (2018), one of the most powerful animated films of the last decade and that can be seen on Filmin and Mubi for a few months.
In April, Lincoln Center presented a series of Screenings curated by the mind behind celebrated contemporary horror films ‘Hereditary’ (2018) and ‘Midsommar’ (2019), which included a screening of the Chilean-German film, which Aster has commented on in an interview.
“It’s a cool stop-motion Chilean monstrosity that really is one of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen. It has some obvious backgrounds, like Jan Švankmajer and Ladislas Starevich, but it’s completely unique. Nothing else has been done to it. seems”.
The reflection of a terrible reality consented to by the government
The director contacted the couple and the rest is history. It is not surprising that he was interested in them, since ‘The Wolf House’ generates a hostile feeling that the public associates with Aster’s filmography, even on some levels, it is like an analogue or animated complement to ‘Hereditary’, in its way of visualizing trauma, such as the representation of the terrible through the dollhouse of that one was united here in a narrative equally delimited by walls, a fantastic representation that tells another, more disturbing reality.
Its historical context is key to the project since it begins with a “film within a film” structure and supposedly places us before a recovered piece of propaganda film from a sect that actually existed in Chile as an attempt at a simpler way of life, connected to the earth. La Colonia dignidad, about which a documentary series was made that can serve as a prequel to it, was formed by a group of Germans in the early 1960s, who kept the Nazi heritage with them.
After going through Russian concentration camps after the war, they arrived in Chile with the excuse of helping the people of Valdivia, a city that had suffered an earthquake, but in reality they were escaping from a couple of accusations of pedophilia that their leader Paul had. Schäfer. A sinister and very dangerous figure, since he would continue his misdeeds in South America, and a significant part of the sect’s activity revolved around providing the guru with children to abuse, as well as providing a place of unspeakable political torture for the Pinochet regime, which allowed the existence of the colony.
An unprecedented combination of techniques
In this context of true horror, León and Cociña present a video based on the internal and external propaganda of the colony, which was filmed to show images that proved that there were only happy lives there. Through this supposedly lost and restored celluloid, we are told the story of María, a rebellious girl who flees into the forest after letting two pigs escape from their pen, hoping to avoid punishment, and takes refuge from the “wolf” by hiding in a deserted cabin, where he remains indefinitely, safe, but unable to leave
He plays with the idea of the fairy tale fable based on the idea that Schäfer was called the wolf in the colony, representing here a kind of variation of the threat of ‘The Three Little Pigs’, posing a contrast between the innocence represented by these tales and the sinister background that they have in their original version, also raising a decrepitude of innocence relative to the delicate subject that underlies the perspective of the victim. In the film, the threatening image from outside begins to transform into a kind of jingy cricket or narrator who is in dialogue with María.
Thus, the hair-raising scenarios attack the senses and overwhelm relentlessly, like a cinematic equivalent of a panic attack in which each new image peels off another layer of repressed trauma that gives new meaning to the previous one. It is here that the filmmakers begin to weave a hypnotic spell of grotesque figures and their surroundings constantly mixing and changing, so that nothing remains static and the content of the entire shot is in constant flux.
A prodigy of five years of work
The mind is penetrating a rabbit hole of surfaces and mutating substances, in an empire of terrifying sensations that transport you to a state of mind, which, unlike Svankmajer and the Quays, who also conceive a technique of recycling the everyday and all kinds of objects, here there is no room for humor and the feeling of vertigo, no room to breathe. To enter ‘The Wolf House’ is to be carried away by an exhausting cycle of birth, decay and resurrection through different disciplines, including photography, drawing, sculpture, stage performance and grotesque shapeshifting puppets.
In barely 75 minutes, Cociña and Leon concentrate their entire thesis on the handling of materials that they had rehearsed in their shorts. During five years of production, they went through twelve exhibition venues, carrying out the performances live working with an itinerant installation that they put in the middle of museums, with a room that updated the archive of the filmed material. That is to say, the film is partly an artistic performance, partly a narrative artifact that is only completed in a single viewing. The sound took them four and a half years.
Therefore, ‘La casa lobo’ is a film in which it is very difficult to separate the direction from the art direction, the result on the screen is the course of a theatrical event. That may be why they achieve a unique sensation, very few works have captured the sense of a nightmare as effectively as, for example, Much’s ‘The Scream’, and this one manages to transport it to the audiovisual with some internal rules of physics and logic as fluid as the watercolors used. Nothing is completely connected to each other, nothing makes a clear sense but it is so coherent that we come to intuitively accept its logic, drawing a story from its twisted imagery.
A work of horror art
There’s something of David Lynch from ‘Eraserhead’, a perverse take on the fairy tale depicting a girl’s Carrollian escape, going like Alice from one prison to another, within the sense of security of the stories, since for its protagonist it is one of the only ways to escape from reality in his life, the sect being a place without entertainment or accommodation to the modernity. Thus, traditionally benign images take on sick connotations, a mocking charge with familiar stamps.
Thus, the pigs in the house exchange their hooves for hands, and become fully human. A makeshift family is created that is later destroyed, healed and finally fed on itself. kitchen and lion represent a statement about the complicity of your homeland in these crimes, and they condemn it using the most innocuous means and the most surreal images. It’s no wonder it was a critical darling on the international awards circuit, but it wasn’t viewable or available until very recently.
Aster has not chosen the couple by chance. ‘La casa lobo’ is a pure genre film, but it is also a haunting, chilling, intricate, and unlike anything else done in this century, work of art thatMaybe excepting the incredible ‘Mad God’. Its allegorical nature combines the innocent with the unnamable, full of dichotomies and symbolism in constant decay, construction, dissolution and transformation, conveys feelings of isolation and control, and the specter of fear and abuse without the need for a full understanding of the context, indeed. they suggest something terrible that is never shown, so the opacity regarding the atrocities makes it even more horrifying.
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