Ruben Brandt, Collector is a Hungarian animated heist noir with a twist. Though we have seen this story told many times, it is the characters and their situations that elevate this caper.
I went into Milorad Krstic’s Ruben Brandt, Collector knowing nothing, other than the title was captivating. To my surprise, as the film started I realized that it was an animated film. But, that shouldn’t stop you from appreciating the piece of art that it is.
The art isn’t just within the animation, and as a matter of fact, it was the perfect vessel for a story such as this. You might be inclined to think of the title as something that might fit an espionage story.
That’s partially true, but it isn’t the entire story.
Ruben Brandt (voiced by Ivan Kamaras) is a psychoanalyst treating patients at his isolated clinic, itself a work of art. The calm and serene environment would be the perfect place for a talented individual like Ruben Brandt to help get other people’s souls pieced back together.
But, Ruben Brandt is a troubled, and perhaps more aptly, a tormented soul himself as he experiences nightmare after nightmare involving priceless works of art.
Krstic breaks each of Ruben’s nightmares into vignettes, increasing their impact on us. As these vignettes progress, each gets more and more thrilling and daring. It also does an exceptional job of allowing the parallel story to lurk beneath the surface, that of the voluptuous Mimi (voiced by Gabriella Hamori) and an ongoing investigation by P.I. Mike Kowalski (voiced by Makranczi Zalan).
Every movement, every character, every piece of art has a function within the screenplay by director Krstic and Ramila Roczkov. While it is beautiful to look at, once the reveal is made, the story becomes something we’ve seen many times over. This is not necessarily the story’s fault; the themes are what make Ruben Brandt, Collector rise above its ilk.
What saves the film from being overly generic are the characters and especially the animation. Each character, from Mimi to Mike Kowalski to Ruben’s patients, Bye-Bye Joe, Membrano Bruno and Fernando, the characters lend an authenticity to the heist themes as well as the noirish look and feel.
Then there’s the art, too. Renoir, Gauguin, Van Gough, Picasso, Manet and even, yes, Warhol are featured in the film. Subliminally, the inclusion of these pieces and their manipulation remind us that beauty, or danger, in art are in the eyes of the beholder.
There are homages to Rififi which I absolutely adored. My bar however is John McTiernan’s 1999 remake of The Thomas Crown Affair which really does a good job of informing the character of Ruben Brandt. These references should also give you a general idea of the type of story that Krstic and Roczkov were trying to tell.
The characters of Mike Kowalski and his assistant, Marina lend a Maltese Falcon type noir element to the story. Mike’s investigation puts a human spotlight on the situations that plague Brandt, and to an extent all of us.
Now in theaters, the innovating strokes of Ruben Brandt, Collector’s brush will shock you and make you laugh. But it should also make you see the inner beauty of everyone on this planet.
Ruben Brandt, Collector is rated R and is now in theaters.