The opening shot of Milorad Krstić's Ruben Brandt, Collector shows a railroad bridge with the words 'PCFC 231' embossed on it. To a passing viewer, it may seem like a random collection of letters and numbers, but it is a subtle nod to Arthur Honegger's Pacific 231, which was an orchestral composition written to give the listener the feeling of a fast-moving train.
If you pause this movie at any point, you will most probably find a reference to something in pop culture. This movie pays homage to numerous pieces of music, film and art, in a similar fashion to The Simpsons or Futurama. In these shows, the references are not spoon-fed to the audience but become an active part of the plot. The extremely detailed frames in Ruben Brandt, Collector feature Easter eggs almost too fast for the eye to catch and you require repeated viewings to notice them all. One of the initial scenes shows an extremely well-choreographed, James Bond-like chase sequence. This is a fast-paced action sequence that gets elevated due to the barrage of hidden Easter eggs that get thrown at the audience. Looking for these references peppered in every scene gives the audience an odd, gratifying purpose.
The movie is based on a psychologist, Ruben Brandt, who has recurring nightmares where characters of famous paintings kill him. Be it Botticelli's Venus pulling him into the painting while she strangles him or the cat from Manet's Olympia attacking him, the vivid imagination of the dreams is horrid enough to send a shiver down your spine. In his serene institute (which looks like it came out of the mind of architect Zaha Hadid), he helps criminals overcome their compulsive needs using art. Ruben Brandt and his band of four thieves go on to steal the thirteen paintings that haunt him, prompting the quote, 'Possess your problems to conquer them'. This movie also has one of the funniest robberies I have seen on screen. The scene takes the phrase 'anything can be art' too far and shows the thieves steal Warhol's Double Elvis as part of their performance art piece, while everyone at the museum applauds.
Even though it is the plot that drives the movie forward, it is not what stays with you after this film; it is the visuals. The inventive animation, adhering to the Picasso-like cubist style of art, will keep you captivated for the entirety of the film. This form of art distorts the rules of perspectives, allowing the viewer to see a drawing from multiple angles at once. Based on animal figures, the forms of the characters are very abstract, with some of them having a bouquet of eyes. The style of animation and use of colour immediately reels you into Krstić's strange world. Although the story seems a little stretched and convoluted in certain portions, this film is worth watching for its fresh perspective, new form of animation, and references to art and culture.