Animated films sometimes break taboos, but they rarely break the rules of their own genre. Director Petra Lottje manages to do both with “mir fehlt nichts” (“I don’t miss anything”), a poignant, shocking and daring short-film of 13 minutes that, in two instances, also includes real footage.
It all starts with an idyllic scene. On a small farm, a young women feeds a chicken while cradling her new-born tenderly in her arms. Meanwhile her husband, out in in the fields, is toiling away. When he comes home, he kisses his wife and pats the baby on its head. On the horizon, we see a small plane fly by.
Which brings us to the end of happiness, since the plane turns out to be of the military kind. Bombs rain down and suddenly the woman and her baby are alone – naked and afraid. They stand in front of a darkened background that is only lit by the light of explosions, revealing horrors of war. Even the playful accordion-score has been replaced by machine-gun-salvos.
The frightened woman runs to the edge of the screen, pulling out black curtains to cover the atrocities and muffle the images and sounds of war. But she does not manage to silence her own memory. And this is how tragedy takes its course, and will endure for generations.
Lottje uses a rather basic, but also very artful style of animation. Even though each cell was painstakingly hand-painted, her human characters have no faces – but Lottje finds other ways to convey their emotions. The aging and progressively heartbroken woman will have wrinkles on her face. Her breasts will start sagging and her pain-filled posture show her growing loneliness. The baby grows up to be a man, but spends too much time being coddled, later replacing breast milk with alcohol. He soon finds a wife, who is shown to us exactly as he sees her: a collection of shapely body parts without a soul.
Another stylistic device, one that might unsettle squeamish viewers, is the use of bodily fluids, including breast milk, sweat, blood and sperm, which Lottje uses to tell this tale (which does not have any dialogue) and lets us realize what happens without explicitly showing how. Which makes the film even more disturbing, because we imagine everything as much more brutal than Lottje could have shown it.
All of this happens very subtly – a few drops falling onto a soil ravaged by war. Just like her depiction of the man’s erection, which is just some movement in his rather miniscule and unthreatening penis. But we know what it means – especially because the man and his narcissistic wife have had a daughter, whose fate will be the biggest tragedy depicted in the film.
All this is hard to take, but the film manages to sneak a few heart-warming moments into this horrible scenario – by bringing the chicken from the beginning back into play, peeking out from behind the curtain and consoling the child at a critical moment. It is these little rays of hope that break your heart, because you know that these moments cannot possibly last.
One should also mention that “mir fehlt nichts” departs from traditional animation by using real footage on two occasions – a break in style guaranteed to exasperate traditional animation-aficionados, but one that makes complete sense in the context of this film. The plane and the devastation of combat are shown in grainy black-and-white footage, reminding us of the reality of war. The second departure is even more apt and truly moving: the girl, having matured into a woman, turns (during a well-executed crane-shot) into a real-life actress, who can now take a last look at what she could have been: a happy child whose joyful life was never destroyed by a never-ending tragedy.
“mir fehlt nichts” is an unusual film, telling an unfortunately all-too-familiar story without frills or clichés – but with an emotional force and unusual approach, so that it will stay in the audience’s mind for a long time. As it should.
Karsten Kastelan (Verband der deutschen Filmkritik e.V.) 2015