Georg Friedrich, in the title role of Aloys, playing a private detective reeling in isolated bereavement from the death of his father and professional mentor would make for an unconventional leading man were this not a highly unconventional film. Awkwardly meek and nervous, he seems a repressed spirit screaming in silence from the gritty regimen of Swiss, urban living.
The first act sets the scene stylishly in established film noir fashion, as it follows the miserable gumshoe on voyeuristic assignments, capturing evidence of adulterous spouses caught in the act. Such familiar beginnings lead into unexpected realms of surrealism as an opportunistic theft and subsequent blackmail plot introduces Aloys to the storytelling game “telephone walking”, along with a mysterious female voice at the other end of his line. There follows a somewhat jarring change of gear that gives rise to some profoundly memorable imagery from the mind of director Tobias Nölle but does so at the expense of much of the narrative focus and rhythm that had built.
Cast as the most likely of several implied sources of the voice, Tilda von Overbeck’s Vera is a suitably ethereal love interest for the colourful hinterland between real life and Aloys’ imagination – though two such kookily similar characters have little perceivable chemistry. Audio, music and meticulously detailed images cut into a vivid muddle, suggesting elements of a relationship occupying the city, the zoo and the forest without explicit proof that the pair have met or that their story is more than simply a desperate fantasy of a lonely soul.
There is a noticeable sense of a missed opportunity here. While it’s an undeniably audacious challenge to conformity, the way the plot flitters away in a wash of nebulous visual flair ultimately makes for a frustratingly uneven cinematic experience that dulls the impact of its artistry.
Aloys is released in selected cinemas on 23rd September 2016.
Watch the trailer for Aloys here: