There are some films that resist standard classification. Tobias Nölle’s Aloys is part bleak fantasy-drama, part study in isolation, but trying to find the exact words to describe this film is akin to accurately trying to understand how you feel about it.
Nölle’s protagonist, Aloys Adorn (Georg Friedrich), is a private investigator plunged into a world of self-imposed loneliness by the death of his father, and it would seem his only friend. Aloys shuns any form of social interaction, preferring instead to watch the recordings of his various “subjects” at home alone. When he falls asleep drunk, his beloved camera and tapes are stolen, only for a mysterious female caller to claim she has them. The woman then begins to slowly introduce Aloys to a strange Japanese invention: the telephone walk. This obscure form of psychological rehabilitation encourages the mind to embark on imaginary walks, and the pair falls into a bizarre intimacy of their own fantastical invention.
Through a bland, perfectly measured colour palette and a score that pulses electronically, Nölle creates an atmosphere of distant voyeurism. Use of a Walkman and camcorder hint towards a retro period and the 1960s-style tower block has a presence more akin to a prison block than a home. The constant use of steamed-up windows further adds to the feeling of a barrier existing between the viewer and this world Nölle has created. Latterly, with the belated introduction of fantasy into the troubled relationship Aloys develops with the unpredictable Vera (Tilde von Overbeck), the film begins to change tonally, but not necessarily as you might think.
With the increased isolation brought on through his imaginary world, Aloys withdraws even further and you begin to feel a nagging sense of dread; a foreboding as to where his story is headed. The film’s opening scene, mystifying at the time, depicts an empty apartment with just a camera lying suggestively on the floor. And this is perhaps Nölle’s misstep.
Ambiguity, forcing the audience to think is wonderful when effective, but Aloys desperately needed a more defined conclusion, one that offered either hope or condemnation. There is no doubt this is filmmaking at its smartest, challenging an audience through unconventional and often uncomfortable themes, but in embarking upon the direction he did in the final act, Nölle had a duty to see it through. Instead, he holds back and, like his central character, seems ultimately uncertain.
Aloys is an intriguing, intelligent film and worth seeking out. Some may find the film weary and frustrating at times, but it is certainly one that challenges you to make your own mind up, and for that alone Nölle deserves great credit.
ALOYS / CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR & SCREENPLAY: TOBIAS NOLLE / STARRING: GEORG FRIEDRICH, TILDE VON OVERBECK, KAMIL KREJCI, YUFEI LI, KOI LEE / RELEASE DATE: SEPTEMBER 23RD
Expected Rating: 7 out of 10