Starring: Iván Karamás, Gabriella Hámori, Csaba Márton
Director: Milorad Krstić
Running Time: 93 mins
Ruben Brandt, Collector is a Hungarian film about a group of expert art thieves who set out to steal all of the artworks troubling their psychoanalyst, leading to a high-stakes chase across the globe through the world’s most famous galleries.
An undeniably gorgeous animation that takes inspiration from some of the greatest artworks of all time, there’s no debate about Ruben Brandt, Collector as a spectacle. However, despite its wealth of art references, it all feels a little too much like a case of style over substance, proving almost entirely inaccessible for non-art lovers, and doing little with its own crime plot.
Now, I’ll start off by saying that I know next to nothing about art. Ruben Brandt, Collector is a film jam-packed with references to the art world at every moment, and yet almost every single one went way over my head. So, if you’re an art aficionado, I’m certain that you’ll appreciate this film a whole more than me.
Saying that, however, for those of us of a less artistic persuasion, Ruben Brandt, Collector has very little to offer. Its gorgeous visuals and striking style notwithstanding, the film feels almost entirely reliant on its art references, and doesn’t do much with its own story about a caper-esque heist all around the world.
As a result, the movie is nigh on inaccessible if you don’t have an encyclopaedic art knowledge, and the fact that there’s so little to grab onto beyond those nods to art points to the fact that the film does unfortunately suffer from a case of style over substance.
The plot takes well over half an hour to start, and even then there’s not much to write home about, as we follow a fairly generic heist chase around the world which never manages to develop deeper themes because of a weak screenplay and the unignorable presence of a barrage of art references.
At times, the movie tries to use its love for surrealist art to foster its own surreal, mind-bending atmosphere, and although there are moments where the film does indeed take on the form of an uneasy nightmare, that too is far too sporadic.
Again interrupted by more art references out of left field and secondary attempts to give the film a classy, sleek 1920s vibe, that surrealist feel clashes badly with the film’s other ideas, and never comes off in the way it’s intended to.
All in all, then, despite director Milorad Krstić’s ambitious and stylish intentions for the film, I found Ruben Brandt, Collector a painfully frustrating watch. It’s certainly not my place to criticise the use of high art references throughout, but the film’s overreliance and barrage-like use of them are what prove particularly difficult to bear.
It’s a visually gorgeous watch, and occasionally manages to create a surreal, mind-bending atmosphere, but the film still feels very much like style over substance. Beautiful, but with little beneath the surface, and certainly an inaccessible watch for the layman. So, that’s why I’m giving Ruben Brandt, Collector a 6.1 overall.