Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Nyocker! (The District)

According to the producer of Nyocker!, theirs is the first feature length animated film out of Hungary since 1986. This unusual little film is a fusion of the visual styles of South Park, Angela Anaconda and Appleseed. The animation is amazingly rich in detail and is simply gorgeous and the film is kinetic, ambitious and stylish (All for less than half a million dollars...are you listening Hollywood?). It takes Shakespeare's Romeo & Juliette and turns it on it's side, then guts it from the inside out. Pimp/Gang/Thug culture, Hungarian Hip-Hop musical Numbers and over-the-top satire on machismo, racism, and global politics are only a few of the elements on this films overflowing agenda. In other words, it was worth the wait.

It follows the children of two rival gangs in a poverty stricken and multi-ethnic urban district in Hungary. Ricsi Lakatos, teenaged son of the districts Gypsy gang-boss, is in love with Julika Csorba daughter of the Hungarian gang-boss. After getting some Scarface inspired advice from his crotchety grandfather (You gotta make the money first. Then when you get the money, you get the power. Then when you get the power, then you get the women), Ricsi decides that is the way to win his true love. He gathers all of the children of both gangs together and comes up with a brilliant get-rich quick scheme:

Step 1: Invent Time Machine
Step 2: Go back to Prehistoric Times
Step 3: Kill as many Mammoths as possible and bury the corpses under the district
Step 4: Back to present, drill oil wells
Step 5: Get into the world Oil Market and make Billions

The plan goes surprisingly well, aided in no small part by the genius physics student in their class. Having learned about Romeo and Juliet in School, Ricsi realizes that he doesn’t want his and Julika’s lives to end up in, well…tragedy. He wisely turns the oil-business over to both sets of parents on the condition that they bury their differences, work together, allow his courtship of Julika and of course the kids get to skim 20% off the top. As the district gets rich, President Bush and the rest of the world leaders don’t appreciate a new player in the oil business, and nuclear war is now on the horizon.

Nyocker! is unconventional animated feature. It is certainly made for adults, as the language is quite raunchy, and nudity abounds. It is aggressively political, both in its anti-American-foreign-policy and using the pixellation-blur effect to hide the faces of the Hungarian politicians, essentially casting them as criminals (much in the same way as Fox TVs COPS!). Director Áron Gauder is not afraid to cast the President Bush, the Pope, Vladimir Putin and Osama Bin Laden in small supporting roles. And what struck me as the oddest creative choice, Nyocker! actually plays the story straight most of the time. I may be wrong on this, as some of the humour may be lost in translation, but I think despite the ludicrous time-travel elements, and wacky police-surveillance sub-plot, it is playing its characters more or less seriously.

While it does get a bit slow in parts and you have to read very, very fast to keep up with the subtitles for all the rap-lyrics and dialogue, Nyocker! is well worth a look for those who love a good cult-animated film. I am certainly in anticipation of Gauder’s sequel to the film (which was confirmed in the Q&A at the Midnight Screening), and I’ll be keeping my eye out for a subtitled version of the TV series that Nyocker! is based on.


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