The winsomely quirky rubs shoulders with the nonsensical in Enrique Otero’s pleasingly distinctive “Crebinsky.” A mix of surrealism, silent comedy and magical realism, this account of two oddball brothers finding their way back home through the northern Spanish countryside manages to be boldly fresh in its deliberate lack of hipness even as it is exhibits aspects that are irritatingly old-hat, but its warm-spirited humanity ultimately wins the day. A rare example of a Spanish film that truly has its own style, pic will appeal to only a small group of devotees, but fests with a taste for curiosities should investigate.
The film develops a story told in helmer Otero’s 2002 short “Os Crebinsky.” Opening scenes deploy charming stop-frame animation to tell the backstory of nostalgic, likable Feodor Crebinksy (Miguel de Lira) and his more practical brother Mijail (Sergio Zearreta), who rep a classic comedy act.
As children they are carried downriver in the floods following a storm, along with their pet calf Muschka, and end up being dumped on a beach. (The Russian names are explained by their father having been a Russian sailor who was killed alongside their mother when a tree fell on them.)
Ten years later in 1944, the brothers, blissfully unaware the future of Europe hangs in the balance, are living in a hut made of things washed up on the beach. Barely articulate, they communicate through grunts, and Feodor, presumably wary about the way his parents died, wears a helmet he’s made from a piece of found metal. This part of the coastline is being watched from a submarine by its commander (Luis Tosar).
Things wobble whenever the action moves beyond the brothers’ beautifully realized world. A gang of tiresome, cartoonish Nazis headed by a captain (Oliver Schultz) is also in the area, in pursuit of wolfram, a hard mineral needed in arms manufacture. When the now-aged Muschka disappears, the distraught brothers head inland to find her.
The tone is a nicely modulated combination of the comic and the tragic, balanced so as to suggest that, in the best tradition of silent comedy, the two are never far apart. There is little dialogue, and the pic is far more memorable for its brief moments of surreal poetry — Mijail carving a full-size statue of Muschka on a clifftop, for example, or a dead Nazi’s parachute being full of fish when they drag him from the water — than for any linear plotting. The final few minutes, though, do carry an emotional charge.
Visually, the film presents a picture-postcard panorama of the cliffs, angry seas and otherworldly mist-hazed beaches of Galicia, an appropriately magical backdrop for a tale that’s never far from the dreamlike. The bouncy score is appealing but overused, and features plenty of tuba and accordion, suggesting composer Pablo Perez has been listening to scores from Emir Kusturica pics.
The brothers’ enigmatic name derives from “creba,” the Galician word for objects washed up on a beach. Indeed, the pic reps a solid primer on the traditionally nostalgic Galician attitude to life.