Pandora Cinematheque: Paths of Hate

CINEMATHEQUE Banner 1Paths of Hate is a short tale about the demons that slumber deep in the human soul and have the power to push people into the abyss of blind hate, fury and rage.”

Paths of Hate seems at first to be a simple war-action short film, full of epic, broad sweeping landscapes and swift, exciting action. The animation is gorgeous, eschewing photo-realism for smooth comic-book style, showing complex detail, similar in aesthetic presentation to releases such as the playfully violent Borderlands 2.

It’s much more than that. This is a serious film with profound messages. Online forums addressing Paths of Hate are overflowing with commentary on the underlying narrative explaining the depicted raw aggression. Refugee Czech pilots operating from English airfields during World War 2 held a deep-rooted hatred for their German counterparts; the highly controversial act of attacking ‘under the canopy’ – shooting in mid-air the bailed out parachuting Axis pilots – was known to have been common practice within the ranks of foreign RAF pilots. It’s clear that the dogfight we’re watching is no ordinary duel.

battle-of-britain-london-contrailsThis would seem the most obvious theme, but there is an even subtler layer at work in this film – several in fact. The director, Damian Nenow, speaking in a presentation, shared his inspiration behind the film with vintage photographs (shown left), that depicted the layered and curving contrails left from the aeronautical duels between allied and axis pilots in the skies above London and other major cities across Europe. Nenow commented on how these contrails might well depict the last and fleeting evidence of real people who perished during these battles, a truly poignant angle to consider.

It’s these contrails – these ‘paths of hate’ – that are used so effectively to contrast the violence and the beauty of the film. It shifts repeatedly and elegantly between the peaceful and the grotesque, the rageful and the contemplative. The pacing of the film draws our attention this way: a single bullet sounds – then we see the twisting curls of smoke and vapor from the dancing aircraft; the graceful curve of the aircraft’s descent towards the ground – then the casual squeezing of the trigger as the foes unload torrents of twisted metal to send the other to oblivion. And my favorite; the planes as they skim the lake, and then the sacrifice of the landing gear to attack the pursuer – it’s here you realize that neither of them expect to come out of this alive.

Paths_of_Hate_01This film is a study in violence, of that there is no doubt. But it’s not the testosterone, gender specific aggression that we’re used to – this defies that typical perspective by showing the universality of our deeper, repressed instinct, cousin to the sexual and survival impulse we all undeniably share.

Certainly, it would be that kind of explosion-laden murder-fest if it wasn’t for the emotional conflict that we see the pilots endure. We observe them cling to their humanity with pictures of loved ones or emblems of spirituality. We see them expend the last of the ammunition, run out of fuel and suddenly, mercifully break from the rage, and then with heart-breaking inevitability, make the final decision to turn back and succumb entirely to their demons, as their skin peels away to reveal the truth.

maxresdefault (1)In the end, after inflicting brutal punishment on one another, even in death they continue their conflict, crawling across the snowdrifts before disintegrating into the wind. It’s here that the film tells us that although this violence is not the sum of us, that we although we can make the choice to process our innate aggression in better ways, it certainly is an integral part of our fabric, and perhaps always will be.

Paths of Hate was directed by Damian Nenow, with Platige Image, released 2010.

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