TheNFB at VFF2021 Part 3: The Myth & Mystery in Altötting, Germany

25 Jan

Altötting (2020) - IMDbBy Ed Sum
(The Vintage Tempest)

National Film Board of Canada
Victoria Film Festival: Animate Me Shorts Program beginning Feb 5th, 2021

Andreas Hykade‘s Altötting is a very personal story about his first time meeting the blessed Virgin Mary and his experiences. He speaks highly of her, as though she was a lover, but the context is far more allegorical–pertaining to her role in 20th Century history–as a lady in waiting for those seeking salvation.

This minimalist animated short is very alluring in its approach of describing the power of her being. The erotic implications are minimal, and whether that was intentional by this filmmaker, it’s hard to say.

As for the experience of seeing the power of her being for the first time, the feelings may well be simliar to how Lucia Abobora, and her cousins, Jacinta and Francisco Marto, described the angel who came to visit them in Fatima, Portugal and afterwards, the Virgin Mary. But this filmmaker set his piece in a small German town with an equally historical landmark built to honour this person (and be a tourist attraction). The similarity is in how the two are often visited by those in search for a miracle.

Both accounts are phantasmagorical in the sense of depicting how the kids grew up and become devoted to their religion. Both have their share of terror because of the times. World War I is raging, and II is around the corner. The Virgin Mary is omnipresent. To recount certain points in history she’s been part of is sombre and needed. She’s known as the Lady of Sorrows for a reason, and animator/artist Regina Pessoa‘s combines beauty with the haunting to show the roles she’s played throughout the years.

The story includes how the narrator handled life. What he reveals is a poignant reminder on why spirituality is important.

The orchestration sets the mood and Franz Schubert’s “Ave Maria” (with Bernard Richter providing the bass) sets the tone–the whole short is very sombre. But as for how to end this piece on a high note, Hykade‘s message is to embrace life and love it for the good things it offers, instead of allowing the proverbial hammer to fall. There’s always light at the end of the tunnel.

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