As one of the only feature animations as EIFF 2014, described in the brochure as a mixture of Wizard of Oz and Terry Gilliam’s Brazil, it was very unlikely that I was going to miss this film. As an animated re – interpretation of cult 1986 live action film of the same name, Koo!: Kin Dza Dza was originally a satire of the Soviet union, yet its modern interpretation is more Adventuretime than Brazil, as a film that is at times laborious, confusing and frustrating.
Following the abduction of a classical cellist and a DJ, the film takes place mainly within a dystopian alien culture on the planet of Pluke, where aliens bark orders at each other in a limited collection of aggressive mono syllabic words, matchsticks become a form of currency and different alien races and their interactions are both surreal and aggressive. Director Georgiy Daneliya carries over his original characters to the animation, adding humor mainly in the repeated embarrassment of the egocentric cellist – at one point begrudgingly taking the role of a stool for his own instrument. While funny in places, a lot of the comedy is lost in translation, with many scenes outstaying their welcome and convoluted story lines often being set up and resolved in a few minutes, repeatedly without the direct interaction of the main characters.
The result is a film that often leaves you in the limbo of the isolated wastes of alien planets, with characters that are difficult to understand and an overall plot arc that is both confusing and lacks resolution. That’s not to say the film is without its merits, with the animated style being both beautiful and at times experimental. Furthermore, the actual concept of post – apocalyptic alien worlds re appropriating familiar items – social hierarchy based on the colour of pants, silly rituals and a restricted lexicon (Kew = socially acceptable obscenity / Koo = most other words) – is a incredibly interesting concept regarding narratives about ‘aliens’ navigating the cultural rites of new worlds, however in Daneliya’s remake it fails to really pull together.
Koo!: Kin Dza Dza requires an open mind and incredible amounts of patience and is a film that has its appeal in its concept, rather than execution. While it may be more suited to fans of the original live – action version, it’s allusions to Russian social commentary and exploration of a complex science – fiction world is still very interesting and is something I haven’t given up on yet. However, approaching the film from a lack of context may leave you feeling as confused, isolated and trapped as the poor protagonists themselves. Perhaps that is the point? Kew that!
Directors: Georgiy Daneliya, Tatiana Ilyina
Writers: Georgiy Daneliya, Andrey Ysachev
Stars: Aleksandr Adabashyan, Georgiy Daneliya, Nikolay Gubenko
Runtime: 96 mins