Saturday, April 16, 2011

Contemporary Short Films: Toyland by Jochen Alexander Freydank

“A film about ignorance, truth and the history of my country.”

-Jochen Alexander Freydank

Update: Jochen Alexander Freydank was rejected by german film schools five times. Finally, he decided to finance his short film “Toyland” on his own – and spent four years working on fourteen minutes of film. When he completed his film, it was rejected by every major German film festival. (Sources: Deutsche Welle and Die Welt) I’m glad that Freydank overcame these incredible hurdles to bring this hard and wonderful story into the world. That’s dedication.

The first thing I thought when I started to watch this year’s Oscar winning short film was; “not another World War II movie.” Having lived in Germany for three years now it can be downright boring to be constantly confronted with the second world war in cinema. The topic seems inexhausible, unlike most audiences.

I was cynical going into this film; I was weeping when it ended. All of my reservations were ovewhelmed by this simple, beautiful, human story. The film is available to watch in inferior quality without english subtitles here or as always in a high quality English-subtitled version on itunes for $1.99.

Toyland (Spielzeugland) tells the story of a young german boy in 1942. The jews are being rounded up for murder, including his best friend and fellow piano player’s family. His mother, in an attempt to shield him from the brutal truth, tells him that his friend is going to Toyland. The german boy of course wants to go too. Out of this simple premise grows a brilliant and heartwrenching short film.

In an interview with moving pictures magazine Freydank commented on the difficulty of making short films (and that’s in a country that subsidizes film production):

“Making short films is the most “unrewarding” thing one can possibly do – no commercial value, no budget; and financing is its own drama in itself.”

The film functions so well as a whole that it is difficult to break it into parts. The story is a masterpiece of Aristotelian storytelling, leading up to a remarkable peripeteia. One leaves shocked that it was only eleven minutes long, because in those eleven minutes more happens than in most two hour long films.

This film brought me through cynicism into a cleansing catharsis. Of all the Oscar winning short films I have seen, this one is my favorite. I am grateful to have seen it.

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