Bizarre yet mesmerising experimental animation…
We rely on festivals to be able to see innovation and try new things, and to take a chance on an unknown director’s first creation and this was the case for me when I chose Luginsky an animation by new director hiaena. With its mixed media collage format, it had the intriguing premise of the journey of Deerman (portrayed as a human body with a stag’s head) whose world starts to unravel when he becomes addicted to a liqueur created by an ex-boxer called Luginsky.
The story is a little more complex than simple addiction however, it covers post-accident trauma, the alienation of an individual in society who has no job, the alienation from relationships when inequality is perceived. Deerman meets his girlfriend Mouscetta (Yumi, voiced by Mao Mizuta), asks repetitive questions about how he is before shouting that she herself is not ok with his situation and making absurd demands of him. His own desires are reduced to drinking, smoking, watching TV and sex, the drinking being the element that brings him into contact with the God barman, panther headed and voiced by haiena himself.
The repetitive motif of broken glass that represents his accident and its reflection in how the world is fracturing around him, the repetition of experiences and conversations with slight differences make it unclear whether he is dreaming or awake, if it is still the concussion causing hallucinations. With all male voices and narration by Nobu Otani, it’s not hard to believe this is some concussed dream.
Haiena’s background in postmodern fiction is really drawn out in this narrative. The more Deerman drinks, the more his hallucinations intensify, making him an unreliable narrator in his own story. It’s not without some political undertone as well, with the idea that boredom and the need for money lead to violent crime. The repeated loops of meeting Mouscetta again and again a whirl of absurdism.
From the credits, it was only a small team that made this – haiena who wrote both story and music, directed and provided the voice for the barman; Jean-Pierre Fujii who created the collages, animation and edited; Asuteka for art; and N/inco for Director of Photography and a few other production roles. I think it is this that has kept the look consistent throughout the film. The collage and art pulse with colour and design, adding to the dream-like quality of the visuals. Some flickering and quick cycling through images at intervals means it’s not the most suitable format for those with epilepsy, and I think if the run-time was longer it would be uncomfortable.
Judging by haiena’s twitter, he regards it as a small miracle that he was selected for the HKIFF. With a Cinema Fan award at the Pia Film festival in September 2020 however, he joined the alumni that include Sion Sono and the recognition needed to springboard into a more international scene. I hope he and his team at J&L films keep taking those leaps.