For fans – like us – of Viktor Hachmang’s highly-personal, ever-unexpected comics, it’s genuinely transfixing to see his characters move through an animated world – even more so in the surreal and solitary world of Zangkom Redux. The recently released short, depicting the chance meeting of two characters hovering through a stretch of space, comes from director Maurice de Bruijne, who collaborated on the screenplay with Randy Oost. Maurice tells an equally mesmerising story of how the concept came about; it was over a quiet dinner, and Randy told Maurice about a film idea exploring how our solitary lives are occasionally briefly interrupted by another human being. “What struck me most about the short narrative that he shared with me was the idea that the lonely voyage continued either way,” Maurice tells us, “whether the moment lasted a few seconds or much longer.”
The lonely voyage shapes the very groundworks of Zangkom Redux. To properly convey the “eternal” nature of the concept, lasting “before and beyond the film”, Maurice turned to sci-fi, a genre naturally adept at tackling the feeling with all its distance and glittering scale. After Maurice established that the characters were to be beings, drifting through space on “rudderless pushpin vehicles”, Viktor Hachmang took over with the design. To capture a “certain forlornness” in the characters, Viktor drew from the “archetypal Pierrot, the sad clown from Italy’s traditional Commedia dell’arte”, he says. Other visual inspirations include Oskar Schlemmer’s strange shape-based costumes for a 1922 Bauhaus ballet, Moebius’ depiction of offworld characters and the eerie 1985 collaboration between anime pioneer Oshii and Amano, Angel’s Egg.
Collaboratively deciding on these visual references was new territory for Viktor: “This whole process was really interesting for me, because I’m mostly used to working on my own, building my own worlds inside my highly personal comics,” he explains. “Maurice was able to steer me into different directions: a wild ride full of anatomical experimentation and odd colour choices that weren’t top of mind for me.”
GalleryVolya Films: Zangkom Redux (Copyright © Volya Films, 2021)
As the film slid further towards the sci-fi spectrum, Maurice explains he wanted a lead animator “that could give emotional depth to the characters”. As such, he brought in Marcel Tigchelaar. His animation style breathes a very human, tactile quality into the film and its characters. Maurice says the first time he saw the character lift its head via animation, he had “the strange, bodily sensation of being transported back to my childhood”. Another element of Zangkom, which is an effect that can’t be overstated, is the sound design. Layering crisp, ethereal sonics and inharmonic drones over the animation, the sound design maintains the film’s “sense of uncanniness without slipping into horror,” something sound designer Mark IJzerman says proved a challenge.
Maurice says there’s been a “rich variety of reactions” to the meditative but undeniably discordant film. He received a “bittersweet, but beautiful” email from someone who had been touched by the film about connection; her loved one was 5000km away from her. On another occasion, during production, Maurice says the head of another animation studio was visiting their own. After being presented with the full Zangkom animation, Maurice remembers: “[The visitor] looked up with a puzzled face two minutes later, stating: ‘I don’t understand what I just saw, but I guess it’s about feeling something?’”
Viktor Hachmang: Zangkom Redux (Copyright © Viktor Hachmang, 2021)
About the Author
Liz (she/they) joined It’s Nice That as news writer in December 2021. After graduating in Film from The University of Bristol, she worked freelance, writing for independent publications such as Little White Lies, INDIE magazine and design studio Evermade.