TIFF14 REVIEW: Mynarski chute mortelle [Mynarski Death Plummet] [2014]

Score: 7/10 | ★ ★ ★

Rating: NR | Runtime: 8 minutes | Release Date: 2014 (Canada)
Studio: La Distributrice de films
Director(s): Matthew Rankin
Writer(s): Matthew Rankin

“Save yourself”

Pilot Officer Andrew Mynarski is a bit of a legend in his hometown of Winnipeg, Manitoba and it would appear his country of Canada as well. The last World War II airman recipient of the Victorian Cross—the British and Commonwealth forces’ most prestigious award for bravery—this hero valiantly attempted to save the life of fellow soldier Pat Brophy before succumbing to the flames of their crashing aircraft. Brophy would survive the ordeal and eventually relay the story of Mynarski’s selflessness, cementing a legacy of numerous honors donning his name such as a Junior High School where he was born, an Avro Lancaster in Hamilton, Ontario, and a bronze statue at RAF Middleton St. George. Now, seventy years after his death, Matthew Rankin commemorates the event with an electric avant-garde short.

Entitled Mynarski Death Plummet, what begins as homage to old silent newsreel footage of the war quickly pulsates into a strobe of crude white lines before centering on the ill-fated hero seated in his plane’s gun turret. Utilizing live actors (Alek Rzeszowski plays Mynarski), stop-motion, painting, and celluloid destruction, Rankin delivers a Stan Brakhage-like memorial that cuts to the discharge of bullets and Patrick Keenan‘s bombastic score. We watch in fast-paced collage every last soul on the plane grab his parachute and jump, leaving Mynarski at the door. Glimpsing another pack labeled Brophy, he simply couldn’t descend without first finding his brother at arms—no matter the cost. Silent film aesthetics ratchet up the melodrama until meticulously rendered, colorful scratched animations takeover like fireworks in the sky.

The result is an invigorating piece that captures both the subject matter’s severity and its capacity to be told as more than another sullen piece of history. Mynarski already has the usual posthumous honors: the stuffy rank and file medals along with government-sanctioned locations housing his name. So it’s a delight to watch a unique piece like this turn his heroism into a work of art that’s able to educate those in the dark without merely directing them to a book of canned, impersonal entries. Mynarski Death Plummet has life and character, immortalizing this event with kinetic energy and tactful humor. If only more tributes could shed the conservative need for solemnity and replace it with celebration. An acid bath of perfectly placed crackling swirls on film is just as good as reenacted flames on set.

courtesy of TIFF

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