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  • Warning: Spoilers
    I have been living in the area where this film takes place (today it is called Jesenik, Czech Republic) for 15 years, A main theme in the film is the deportation of millions of ethnic Sudeten Germans from the Sudeten Land (up to 95% of the original population in this area was German) and were replaced with an assortment of peoples from various regions from Czechoslovakia, Romania, and Greeks (who themselves were exiled from Greece after a civil war). This issue is very sensitive even today, however this issue is present in many of today's "civilized" societies and countries: the local population is forcibly removed by a violent and armed population. The history of the world is about conflict and forced migrations. The United States of America is built upon the genocide and forced migration of the native peoples. Israel has been evicting the local Palestinians for decades and doesn't want to stop. Australia and New Zealand are Western styled countries built upon stolen land from the native populations. Nearly the all the North, Central and South American countries were built in the past centuries by Europeans who stole their wealth, subjugating the locals to their will and imposing their own cultural norms like religion upon the local population. However few people really want to face this brutal reality of our (European) history. In Alois Nebel, this brutal and incomprehensible act took place in recent memory and people who were expelled live to this day, I have spoken with them. For some reason only the forced migration and inhumane treatment of the Jewish people is in the chapter on WWII in the text books, like it is forbidden to teach that revenge upon the German population was meted out by angry mobs in the absence of any form of justice. Like this chapter was erased from the History Books. Try to imagine that one day a cultural minority comes to your neighborhood bearing arms and orders you to leave with just what you can carry. Your entire life's work and that of your ancestors is gone and becomes the property of another, your living room will be lived in by people who have no connection to the objects, the house you built will provide shelter for those who didn't lift a finger to build it. This act is the definition of inhumane, yet it goes on today all over the world.

    How can one live with one's self having participated in the epitome of inhuman behavior? How does one justify such behavior to their self in order to maintain a facade of humanity? What about revenge by the people who have suffered the maximum injustice? It is easy to demonize others, but how do people who engage in demonic acts justify their behaviour as morally correct.

    These themes are universal and take place in every culture and throughout history. Alois Nebel is just 1 small story, just 1 little man trying to make sense of the injustice and inhumane behaviour of fellow humans, he finds comfort in reading the timetables of the train schedule, as if the times are solid facts he can build his existence upon in a world of disguised brutality. His story takes place in a small mountain valley in Central Europe and is embedded in the history here. But that is not an excuse not to contemplate the larger themes that most people would much rather ignore than face. We need to face our history, just like Alois Nebel must face his own and not live in the fabrications that are created for us by those in power. Fabrications like the train schedule and fairy tale shown on the TV. And the corrupt behaviour of the average citizen - taking kickbacks, pocketing money meant for others, dealing with the enemy for personal gain. And knowing those morally corrupt around you also killed and expelled your family - how can a person live with that reality? These are the questions the film rises and these apply to everybody. Alois Nebel out of the fog creates his own reality with befriending a woman his cat, his devotion to his job (banging the train rails to hear if they are OK) and faith in the train table. Today's society creates its own distractions and "fog" in the form of Sports, reality TV, 24 hour "news" shows, personality cults based on celebrity (Oprah, Rush, Palin), and other contrived realities created by marketing professionals, Public Relations gurus and Religious figures in order for today's population to live in the fog and not realize what is really going on around them. I think there is a nod to Ken Kesey's novel "One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest" which was directed by Czech Milos Forman that also dealt with seeing the reality through the institutionalized (authority/government) fog.

    Alios Nebel's tale is told within one milieu - post WWII expulsion of Sudeten Germans from Czechoslovakia mountain hinterlands, the morally corrupt Communist system that followed and finally the Freedom after the Velvet Revolution. Every tale must exist within a cultural milieu, but that doesn't mean the basic themes are unique to that time and space, just the opposite, they transcend these boundaries. The themes raised are able to be addressed by every viewer in every country, if they themselves are able to see through the "Nebel" (German for Fog) that exists around them. After viewing this film, I hope the viewer will think about illusions created around them and the reality that lies beneath. Alios Nebel has traveled this path.
  • matkoslav127 October 2011
    Have you ever seen any Czech film? Wheter yes or not, this movie is perhaps the best shot taken in Czech Republic for ages. A great story about how a single person can face consequences of his memories, bad experience and false people surrounding him. If you ever felt lonely, all the scenes, the entire movie, would definitely capture you! Alois Nebel is a story about how a common people lived in an era, when the loneliness was everywhere, when working on a railway station was about self-fulfillment and when living in a virgin nature somewhere near to Czech-Polish frontiers was as great as living in a heaven. This movie is worth of every penny!
  • tough as in this - the events it depicts is very central Europe specific, so not sure if it will convert well to unless for the more curious and exploring minds.

    although I admire the director being relatively young and chooses to do this instead of some action video movie. the scenes/shots/drawings are beautifully done - apparently added a layer of gray on top of the original comic of just black and white. Rotoscoped to be exact.

    Not just picture, but sound is striking. Storey wise I have not read the original and would like to know what they did or did not leave out. But he pacing, the style of not overly informative - that you have to read/think/digest is what I prefer.

    saw this at 2011 tiff. gives me a very strange combination of feelings of grim/guilt/inescapable and yet ephemeral beauty.
  • This is characteristically Czech, that worldview shaped by centuries of being tossed from the sphere of one empire to the other and being unable to do more than watch; this watching is usually a whimsy or a mute sadness in Czech films. From this view flows a disenchantment with power as well as morals and narrative, a disenchantment that powers a lot of the life of representation over there, from independent- minded cinema right down to porn.

    Painting instead of chronicle. The film is actually both, the chronicle a series of moods about detachment from the world, centered on a weary station master in a remote post in the mountains who can only watch as night rolls down on the passing of things. There's smuggling going on to and from the border, this is how the activities of men are rendered here, as superficial schemes of an uninteresting importance. He is soon fired, takes his watching down to the city where no one cares. The backdrop is the fall of communism around the Bloc but this too reaches us as faint echoes from a TV or radio, there's no motivation for political discourse in any of this, only distance and disenchantment.

    This is the treatise, about this man who can wander away from it all as passively as he sat and watched the machinations and how this nearly costs him the one prospect left for love. It's not terribly interesting, the detachment as weariness more than space for reflection.

    The sketch is a bit more so, that's where the film derives a lot of its power from. It's an animated film, though it seems real people and locations were used for their nuance as the backdrop to sketch over. The animation is basically a shorthand here that lets the makers accentuate moods with a softer distance that you really have to strive to create with the camera. It worked for me, the dark mountains, the mud, the thankless vodka around a table with strangers, it seeps into the bones with the rain and chills.
  • doplicher12 March 2018
    I saw an announcement for this movie which included a screenshot: I barely read the synopsis and went, and I'm very glad I did! The black and white images, gradually including shades of grey, are beautiful and captivating, though of course haunting given the movie's theme. It's a story of loneliness, old crimes, and ethnic hatreds fueled by WWII. Worth watching also to learn something about the fate of that part of Europe. I'm not sure whether someone already mentioned this, but I think it would be nice for viewers to know that Nebel = fog in German.
  • "Alois Nebel" is an intriguing Czech melodrama which unfolds amidst the backdrop of the collapse of socialism in the country in the late 1980's and a train station platform-set rape incident which happened during World War Two catching up on the then-present day. Despite these ambitious ideas, it works surprisingly well as a low-level drama about a mentally ill man who doesn't seem to be able to find pleasure in life; who lives the sort of existence where time just seems to tick by, where you might find yourself staring out of a window at nothing in particular, where people and events just seem to take their course around you. It operates on two strands, even managing to briefly overlap them, in its telling of its story, one of which is why this character is so upset, and is, on the whole, a satisfying piece of drama film-making.

    "Alois Nebel" is, in this sense, a very Czech film to the extent it tackles probably the two major points of interest relevant to the nation of Czechoslovakia within the twentieth century and does so, unsurprisingly, in a very stern, stiff, serious way. Broadly speaking, the film centres on a man from whom the film derives its title, Alois Nebel (Miroslav Krobot), who is somebody approaching the autumn of his life in the autumn of 1989 as the decade, plus a ruling ideology, enters their respective winters. Nebel is not the most stimulating of protagonists, but his back-story and the events that happen to him over the winter of 1989-90 make for interesting viewing none-the-less. He is haunted, if you will, by a kind of PTSD which is only very slowly revealed to us through ghostly flashbacks; something which has the film, despite it taking place in the real-world and dealing with some incredibly grounded and real issues, fly off into scenes of the avant-garde and the magical as Nebel either hallucinates or suffers flashbacks. Complimenting this is the fact the film appears to have been re-rendered as a three-quarter animation, the likes of which you will have seen in something like "Sin City".

    Nebel is a guard at a train station in the Czech countryside which serves the town of Bily Potok, near what must be the Polish border. He sits in his office; puts milk out for a cat which comes and visits and generally makes sure the set-up runs efficiently with his co-worker, who has a father who knew Alois' father, such is the intimacy of the surroundings. Having lived in the area his whole life, and being a certain age, he is able to remember when, during the German occupation during the war, the station was used as a stop-over to transport Czech Jews to the concentration camps. His bland orating of the various station names along the line that he operates might just as well be the names of the victims of those camps, the film appearing to deliberately track over a graveyard the first time he does this.

    Meanwhile, on the other side of said border, a younger man appears to be making a break from Soviet soldiers, whom we recognise as shouting 'Stoy' because we're all able to distinguish Russian from Czech, aren't we? Ambling across, he turns up at Nebel's little platform and, for whatever reason, possesses a photograph from years prior depicting both station guards' fathers standing together on this very platform. The burning question at the core of "Alois Nebel" is as to why he has this picture and why would he risk such bad news in crossing over into Czech territory when there is not, if we all know our Communist societies, a tremendous deal to gain?

    The film is, therefore, a mystery story, but it is not a mystery story its lead character attempts to solve. Indeed, Nebel could not be further away from where he should be and, if anything, it solves itself in the background with Nebel happening to be around when it happens. A lesser film might have told the film from the perspective of this border-jumper, who has to go through being caught; beaten up; imprisoned and must, ultimately, look for a certain individual for certain reasons connected to the past - a past which overlaps with this stranger's.

    "Alois Nebel" is more preoccupied with the travails of its eponymous hero, who is whisked off to the big city after he attempts some treatment on his would-be depression; seeing, for himself, just how bad, I think, life can be for men in his position when things go really wrong. The film is ridden with interesting subtexts and juxtapositions - there is a heavy emphasis on trains and the railway industry more broadly, which is at once both a source of and reason for: employment; unemployment; despair; fear; life; history; panic and national character. As a new decade blooms, people whose lives are essentially over seem to celebrate, despite the fact their society is heading into a wider unknown.

    Tantalisingly, the film cannot settle on what it perceives as a good ending or a bad one: what will come of the railways once capitalist reform takes place? Is bloody revenge justified within the context of the back-story which reveals itself, furthermore if the authorities can hardly be trusted? Is all you need in life, ultimately, another human to love? This will have the film sound more philosophical than it is, but as far as 80's set semi-animated Czech films go, "Alois Nebel" is worth checking out.
  • When I think of animation, I think of motion but A.N. prefers to allow stillness to tell most of its story. That moribundity is a stand-in for despair and Kafkaesque government oppression. The upward emphasis here is light and dark and their constant interplay, both literally and as metaphor. Men are dwarfed to insignificance by uncaring worlds of incandescence and shadow. Hardly an easy watch, but worth your time.