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  Aloys Telephone Man
Year: 2016
Director: Tobias Nölle
Stars: Georg Friedrich, Tilde von Overbeck, Kamil Krejcí, Yufei Li, Koi Lee, Sebastian Krähenbühl, Karl Friedrich, Peter Zumstein, Agnes Lampkin, Rahel Hubacher, Haroldo Simao, Tobias Bienz, Aaron Hitz, Barblin Leggio-Hänseler, Benjamin Merz, Alexander Seibt
Genre: Drama, FantasyBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Aloys Adorn (Georg Friedrich) is a private investigator who worked with his father until recently, obsessively recording the to and fro of a number of people their clients had recruited him to keep a watch on, but having no existence outside of that activity, not so much a job, more a way of life. However, his father has now died, and as he was the only person Aloys would talk to with any great regularity the middle-aged man must now face life even lonelier than he was before, not that this will stop his recordings which become even more important now he is so isolated. However, as he rebuffs any attempt by concerned others to get to know him, it will take a miracle to save his life...

Which is more or less what he got in this curious Swiss movie, the second feature from director Tobias Nölle that sought to get to grips with the blight afflicting modern Western society: loneliness. If the reports were to be believed, the chances of not only dying alone but spending a long time before your demise alone as well were increasing every day, not only because of relationships that didn't work out but because of never having much of a relationship at all, romantic or amicable. Aloys was perhaps an extreme example since he turns down anyone who reaches out to him to wallow in his misery, but that made it harder for him to be contacted, and when he passes out drunk on the bus it seems it's the end for him.

So far you have been watching a rather austere drama about a man shutting himself down from his environment, and we get hints that the people who live in his apartment block may be suffering in the same way, though they are more open to getting to know those around them, including Aloys. But then something genuinely strange happens: the tone did not grow that much warmer, but someone does manage to break through his barriers when they phone him up and make it clear that though he may have been content to be an observer without being a participant, he is actually being watched in turn, only the specific identity of the observer is a mystery to him. He tries to shut down once again.

Yet he is now intrigued, since in a curious way when someone takes an interest in you, no matter how anonymously or at what remove, it can be an oddly flattering experience, proving in some way that you are interesting enough to take up a lot of space in a person's thoughts. Obviously if this grows sinister then the attention can be unwanted, and so it appears to be with Aloys and his admirer who responds to his aggression at being spied on in kind, at least initially. However, this woman's voice on the line prompts all sorts of questions in his mind, especially when she suggests a manner that they could meet without seeing each other in person, not over the phone but by way of a Japanese technique called telephone walking, which may or may not be invented for the purposes of the plot.

This opens up a new arena for Aloys as his imagination is tapped in a method he had never realised he could benefit from, visualising the surroundings he could meet the woman in and suddenly is in what nineteen-nineties moves would term virtual reality. But don't go thinking this was a remake of The Lawnmower Man, for there were no computer graphics here, barely even any in camera effects, simply props and creative use of locations that build a world for Aloys to wander around in and find out about the secret admirer. Eventually she is able to reveal herself as Vera (Tilde von Overbeck), though under circumstances that could have been a lot better for them both, and she is a younger lady just as isolated as he is, indicating in rather pat romantic thinking that there is someone out there for everyone. Nölle undercut any sweeping emotion by playing it more subtly, which did have the effect of creating a cloud of gloom that was only really lifted in one scene (you'll know the one) and may make you wonder if you were in a lonely place how worth it all this reaching out actually was, probably not the intention. Anything's better than nothing would seem to be the conclusion. Music by Tom Huber and Beat Jegen.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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