There's something vile in them here woods,
a vicious brute in wicked boots!
It has frightful fingers,
a maw of a mouth,
an enormous nose,
a horror head.
Better not mess with that evil creature!
Sooo soooo scaary!"
The Monster of Nix, or, as the full English translation would read: "The Monster of Nothing" screened this year in Les Sommets de l'Animation de Montreal hits me in the middle of an existential crisis. As the film opens, Willy, a 8 years old boy discovers behind the closed door of the kitchen --he was thinking his grandma was cooking cookies for him -- the whole town of Nix falling into pieces. And his grandma, along with half of the residents of the town, is missing. The mourning song "all gone, all missing" announces the disaster and we see terrified residents looking for their loved ones. As in every fairy tale, Willy heads to the forest to find his grandma. In the darkness of the forest, this lost but fearless kid looks for the monster to fight it, ( careful, spoiler here !!!) only to discover the ugly but also poetic truth of life: the monster is nothing but, yes, "nothing." And in order to escape this nothingness, you have to protect your eggs, a.k.a. your stories.
Losing someone makes you travel into your own dark forest, and the companions you find there are no different than what Willy meets on the road: the coward ranger who locks himself into his cabin and who believes that he can destroy the monster with a saxophone, the selfish swallow who believes that in order to exist in the real world he has to be cruel and trick others, the tender and kind "Langemannes" who appear at first to be the monsters but who are in fact the keepers of the dream world, and all the other lost fairy tale characters...
But don't get me wrong, the film doesn't promise the key to happiness or any way to deal with the emptiness of life: it just shows the story of a kid who learns that all that he experiences is actually his own creation and who, just after finding out the truth about eggs and stories, inevitably gets sucked into the nauseous disaster of losing someone he loves.
Rosto explains that he tried to make a light film this time, after all his beautifully uncanny dark body of shorts, but I wonder how many people feel "uplifted" after watching "The Monster of Nix".
As always, Les Sommets brings together all these lonely dreamy creatures that we call animators; they exchange timid smiles and small conversations, not really blending into or affecting anything in the real world. In the middle of these kind solitudes, tired and wrecked, I ask myself: where should I look for an egg?
PS: Oh yes, you can hear Tom Waits and Terry Gilliam singing and talking in this film.