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The Forgotten: Lutz Dammbeck's "Einmart" (1981)

On a strange, alien world, a legless creature tries to fly in Lutz Dammbeck's weird animation, "Einmart" (1981).
This quite indescribable short film seems to land in some uncharted hinterland between the alien antics of Fantastic Planet and the abstract worlds of early Boroczyk. A few glimpses of live-action early on give way to bizarre deserts dotted with vast, crumbling stone ears, and weird creatures made of assorted human parts, dragging themselves around on what ought to be their necks.
The mysterious transitions, in which B&W negative merges with positive, before a charcoal sketch bleeds through, briefly forming an impossible landscape part earth, part drawing, suggest that perhaps our world is being dreamed by theirs. Maybe if one understood German? But I liked not understanding this film, guessing at its meaning, and I prefer to think that subtitles would just open up more mysteries.
Any narrative seems to have already happened, to be happening elsewhere, or be expected to happen at some future point. There creatures thrashing or heaving or padding about are surely bit players, not leads, and we're in the wings of some cosmic drama.
Penile plants thrust repetitively into moist labial openings in a hardcore pornscape. Tendrils flagellate a cluster of breasts, both growing from the planet's soil. The world is not just having sex with itself, it's having kinky sex.
With story excised, the action resembles a nature documentary, one which David Attenborough has fled from in revulsion, leaving us no husky voice-over to orient our journey. (If you turn down the color on a nature doc, and play your own music, you can make a pretty good art-horror movie of your own.)
Clangorous rhythms, sonorous chanting, and an untuned radio's tinny whispers are our accompaniment here, not used as dramatic underscoring, more as this landscape's version of whistling wind, rustling trees, plashing waves.
Then, after a journey across a boingy brainscape whose convolutions snake to the far horizon, and an encounter with a vast, surprisingly humanoid figure with huge, predatory claws for feet, we meet something almost familiar: a storyline. Our plucky pilgrim protagonist, a mute, bald head with arms but no ears, conceives of a desire to fly. He's aspirational! Will he succeed? Yes: immediately.
As this is an East German cartoon, every "yes" comes with it's own "but," followed soon by a "no, no, no!" I have no idea how much censorship Dammbeck would have been subject to—I would expect lots—but his scenario, in which a character breaks through a wall, only to encounter a rather questionable freedom on the other side, may have needed all the camouflage it could carry in order to escape official censure.
This extraterrestrial Icarus makes a good hang-out movie, where you can drift into a gloomy yet strangely exhilarating dream.
***
The Forgotten is a fortnightly column by David Cairns, author of Shadowplay.


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