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Reviewed by Thyronne Millaud-Renowned Polish artist and filmmaker Mariusz Wilczyński drags us along a bleak, gritty, confusing, and deeply personal journey through his psyche, memories, and musings in his festival award-winning first feature KILL IT AND LEAVE THIS TOWN.

Employing an almost child-like, lo-fi animation style the film is a plotless, stream of consciousness meditation on aging, mortality, and loss. It’s dark themes and morbid disposition is reinforced by the scratchy, animated line-drawings of imagery as bland as people going about their everyday lives in a cheerless industrial town to the vulgar and grotesque such as people defecating on these same streets, people drowning among fishes in a barrel, or a mortician stitching up the genitals of his mother’s corpse while chattering aimlessly.

There is no plot. There are 90 minutes of animated vignettes that are stitched together. To me, it seemed long at 90 minutes. As it is presented as a string of consciousness piece, it feels like the whole thing could have been sketched out in a long, sad afternoon, but in reality, this was a project 15 years in the making. At one point he talks about how people who have died are not really gone but are always alive in his mind. So when you think about how this project represents a lifetime of memories of events friends and family who have died it’s a pretty remarkable feat.

Because of the gloomy animation, the dark themes, and the personal nature of this film, you might not expect it to appeal to a wide market. But these very themes are so universal and touch every one of us that this alone should transcend KILL IT AND LEAVE THIS TOWN above the status of a niche film.

I have never been a fan of animated films, and this film does little to change the fact but I did find myself appreciating the craft that went into it. Much of the imagery just couldn’t have been done in a live-action movie, without it becoming bloated with special effects. I doubt a written word piece would have anything near the visceral impact. Although it would have allowed the reader to imagine for themselves, few readers would have an imagination as vivid and dark as this. Thus animation appears to be the perfect vehicle for Wilczyński’s reflections.

Polish artist Mariusz Wilczyński is a self-taught artist who has been creating animated auteur cinema for over twenty years. Retrospectives of his films have been held at MoMA in New York, National Museum of Brasília, Tokyo International Forum and The National Museum in Warsaw, among others. His animations were shown at the National Gallery in London and at Berlinale. He also creates improvised live animation performances which he co-creates with symphony orchestras from Hong Kong, Paris, Tokyo, Geneva, Lviv and Warsaw. In 2007, the New York Times called him “one of the most important contemporary creators of artistic animation.” He is a professor of animation at the Film School in Łódź.

Awards and Festivals
Berlin International Film Festival – Official Selection – Encounters
Annecy Int’l Animation FF – Jury Distinction Award
Ottawa Int’l Animation FF – Best Film
Palic Int’l FF – Critics Jury Award
Viennale – FIPRESCI Prize


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