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No right and no wrong life

“Aloys” is a bizarre film about alienation in modern society. Phil Butland found it fascinating – but is glad that there aren’t many more films like it

Aloys (Georg Friedrich) is a private detective, the son in the company name “Adorn and Son”. Following the recent death of his father, he lives alone with his cat on the eighteenth floor of a gloomy high-rise block. He has not quite managed leave his father, and still uses “we” instead of “I” in conversation.

His job: filming unfaithful husbands

Aloys’ job isolates him. His films men who cheat on their wives. He tries to avoid contact with the victims. This isolation confirms the way he sees the world, as he describes later in the film: “… the outside world is like a party, and every party comes to an end. All that remains is lonely people. And they’ll go to the next party. And again to the next. And at the end, they’ll still be lonely. ”

In order to protect himself from this loneliness, Aloys keeps his distance from other people. He doesn’t have an e-mail address and commutes between work and his home. Once home, he shuts the door and refuses to answer it – even for the neighbour – a mysterious girl of Asian origin, who regularly knocks.

Therapy method from Japan

One day, Aloys wakes up in a parked bus. Next to him is an empty whisky bottle, but his video camera and tapes have disappeared. A chain of events brings him in touch with his neighbour Vera (Tilde von Overbeck), who is just as removed from society as he is.

Vera is a zookeeper and seems to find it easier to build relationships with animals than with humans. After an attempted suicide, she lands in a clinic from which she regularly calls Aloys. She tells him about “telephone wandering”, a therapy method that has been developed by Japanese neurologists. Couples talk to each other over the telephone, and develop imaginary worlds together in which they can overcome their shyness.

Aloys and Vera thus meet in a forest of their own creation. The Vera who Aloys meets is slightly different to the real person (for example, Aloys’ Vera has a gap between her teeth). When push comes to shove, though, the difference between reality and Aloys’ fantasy is neither clear nor particularly important. The film is a fiction anyway, and Aloys’ experiences are just another fiction within this fiction.

Aloys is a timeless figure

“Aloys” the film, is melancholic – sad even – but in no way unhappy. In one scene, Aloys and Vera sit side by side and play on an electric organ while their neighbours dance and clap. It is quite bizarre and one of the most joyful film scenes that I’ve seen in a long time.

Nonetheless, the film seriously examines loneliness and alienation in modern society. The Swiss director Tobias Nölle describes Aloys as “an extremely timeless figure: Today, everyone fights for the greatest possible visibility and recognition, being taken seriously and collecting likes are the obsessions of the digital generation. Aloys is the opposite.”

Nölle does see Aloys’ rejection of the norms of modern society as a deformation. Nevertheless he refuses to make a moral judgement about Aloys’ and Vera’s inability to fit in socially. The film respects them as they are, and never suggests that their lives would be any more valuable if they could only make a few friends.

Plea for enjoying life

The relationship between Aloys and Vera is artificial, as he is trapped in his flat and she is hospitalized. At the same time, it is very real, and we can see the way in which the two develop through their telephone conversations. Nölle clearly shows the soullessness of modern society. At the same time, he sees how we can still enjoy life.

The film combines a pessimistic world view with a passion for life. It is perhaps healthy that there are not too many films like “Aloys”. But we would have missed something extraordinary if Nolle had not made it.

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