Tomás Lunák Talks Alois Nebel
Alois Nebel marks Tomás Lunák's directorial feature debut and the first rotoscope animation done in The Czech Republic. The Oscar contender for Best Animated Feature is based on a graphic novel and depicts a lonely train dispatcher in 1989 who suffers from hallucinations of ghostly trains from the dark days of World War II that appear out of the fog and pull up outside the train station. Lunák brought his film last week to the Palm Springs Film Festival and discussed his cinematic journey.
Bill Desowitz: What attracted you to the graphic novel and how did you get involved in making your first animated feature?
Tomás Lunák: The graphic designer of the graphic novel, Jaromir 99, is also singer in the rock band Priessnitz, and since 2001 I was shooting videoclips for them and worked also on the visual style of the band. During this period, the graphic novel was developed and gradually published in three parts: Bily Potok, Central Station, Zlate Hory. Later on, all three novels were published in one compilation book, Alois Nebel. Pavel Strnad, a producer, asked Jaromir 99 and Jaroslav Rudis to adapt the graphic novel into a film. The first version of the storyboard was created, which was very similar to the graphic novel.
BD: It's literally about getting lost in a fog of history. What's the significance of the story for you?
TL: For me it is a film about countryside, countryside that was humiliated and destroyed, but at the same time begins to defend itself. This fog could be the morning fog when nothing is seen yet. However this fog eventually resolves and a new day begins.
BD: What were the challenges in getting the story and tone just right? What was it like collaborating with the author/designer? What was his impact on the film?
TL: We were in close contact with the designer for the entire making of the film. When the first versions of script were made, Jaromir 99 redrawn them into storyboard and these were imported into the script again. During the shooting, Jaromir 99 began to prepare materials for the animators -- he redrew or prepared each of the already filmed shots. I think we spent more than two years in the same office.I would also like to mention, that my main role was to serve humbly, as it is a story of Jaromir 99 and Jaroslav Rudis after all.
BD: Why rotoscope? Because it depicts the graphic look?
TL: The main reason why we finally decided for rotoscope was that we tried to find the perfect way how to adapt the graphic novel into a film. However, for all of us it meant to forget almost everything we knew. At school, I mostly made puppet films and videoclips, therefore there was this fear of how I will be able to direct actors or the shooting itself. That's why we decided to make a one-minute test already with Miroslav Krobot as the main character and the final result surprised us all in a very positive way. Suddenly, we began to feel that the rotoscope could serve the film well and I also think that the results of the test shots helped us to secure finances for the film.
BD: What was it like making the film?