Ida Orosz Sensitive abstract
Tomek Ducki: Életvonal (Lifeline) (2006) – winner of the Kecskemét Festival (KAFF)

116 KByte

Életvonal has achieved remarkable success at several festivals. The diploma movie of Tomek Ducki, who graduated at MOMÉ last year, received a special award at this year’s Animated Film Festival in Stuttgart, won the Youth and Animated Film award at Mediawave in Győr, as well as the grand prize and the special award of Hungarian Film Critics at this year’s KAFF.

What we see is a universal mythology squeezed into six minutes. To deal with the universe in a short film is far from unique in the animated film tradition, because it is especially suitable for compression. In Polish art – our young artist is of a mixed breed, with a Polish father, Kristóf Ducki, a dominant figure in Hungarian poster art – human issues of faith are of great importance and are frequently chosen by artists with a typical dramatic touch. Neither film, nor animation is an exception to this viewpoint, although the lyrical and sometimes sentimental attitude towards universal questions is never exclusive: it is in an ironic or even self-ironic relationship with the world surrounding man.

The title itself is targeting the description of the whole human life, referring both to the macro-cosmos of the whole lifespan and the micro-cosmos hidden in a palm and in wrinkles, while the breakage of letters suggests a tragic ending. A huge crane shows the appointed track for the cog boy, who gradually gets used to life after his initial, uncertain steps and walks along the assigned track locked in loneliness. We will see that it is not impossible, although dangerous to leave this path. The road assigned by toothed wheels – using the analogy of palm reading, which says that roads cross each other and the lifeline is full of breakages - will be the metaphor of human life locked in determination, and is a bitter statement of existentialist incapability of self-fulfillment. One path, one life: powers other than the (robot)people build the roads, show the way, and dot them with troughs of wave and peaks. What man has to do is to skate along this geometry created from rules, irregularities and accidental necessities. The film undertakes to present principle human events, the existence and the opportunities of love in this highly alienated world, amidst the monotony of the cog roller-skating. The main character of the film will be able to break through the lack of brusque relationships of appointed paths. Suddenly we see a meeting and love: the two paths find each other, they began courting and their initial happiness encourages the two young cogs to dance; and in this grey, ordinary world beauty and emotion are born. Due to the two-dimensional character or rather the unfulfilled emotions of the dancing couple, the ecstasy of love remains unreturned, the relationship becomes a common experience only because of its simultaneous nature, since there is nothing in between that they could not overcome by the assembly of their bodies. Their only ?bodily” contact takes place, when the boy pushes himself into the water from the girl’s body in order to keep the girl alive.

The world is divided into levels, just like its ?regular” version: below the ?ordinary citizen” we see aggressive bodybuilders with pumped up bodies, and gigantic parasites tramping along – glutting down the others, waiting for their prey in their ?spider’s web” –, walking their own paths. We sense that everything around is full of creatures – with the same spare parts, but rougher structures in mentality -, threatening the life of the individual.
Apart from the vertical structure, horizontal fruition will be the visual representation of the timely procession of life. The blissful dance is necessarily finite, after which it is impossible to continue the earlier dull days.
According to the conventions of romance, after a short-lived happiness (following the usual dramaturgic counter-pointing) a dramatic disaster should follow. An ordinary person becomes a hero as the result of the disaster, but not an everyday hero, rather a hero who overcomes the universe. The farewell to happiness, the confrontation with death, the persistence to life and the resignation from it, all become central motives. The mortal confronts death, fights against it while dying and takes care of the living and life itself, before sinking into the swamp of machine spare parts.
Nevertheless, higher level ideas, self-sacrifice and the questions of life and death do not make this short film unbearably laborious or over-packed. The visual world of the film was created after the Indian Wayang shadow theatre, and is simple, precise, yet keeps the distance. The same distance can be felt in the industrial music that is heard throughout the movie, supporting the images: this electronic music is alienating and lyrical, yet mechanic and emotional at the same time.
The cog (like noiseless stars) falls upon the mechanic creatures galloping in the grayness from above (!): the ashes of the boy scarifying himself for the other. Yet these are not the heavy metal pieces that hit the boy on the head at the beginning of the film, or the spare parts of the dying girl holding on to the end of her ?lifeline”, but the fluffs that remain light in spite of the heavy metal body, while the falling cog leg of the boy lives on as a tiara on the girl’s head. The boy rescues parts of his body from the parasites closest to the underworld, and the cogs continue to decorate the beloved girl. After his death, the boy becomes a kind of spare part donor for the one staying alive; the victim saves a life and keeps on living after his death in the living girl.

Életvonal depicts the bared structure of a conventional male-female romance. The basic love situation can hardly begin when it suddenly ends. It is none other than the encyclopedic listing of much-loved platitudes. However, the alienating technical and industrial environment (the cog world that reflects the rigid strictness of the principle that everything is connected to everything else, and nothing can move independently, while it is also the symbol-creating power of perfectly sensed genre characteristics that compress and simplify the animation) enables the viewer to see the images through ?fresh” eyes, to experience and think about what he has seen. The individual and stylized demonstration, connection and breakage of life-drafts and human skeletons: abstraction and emotion at the same time; this is the secret of Életvonal.

translated by Andrea Danyi


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