Review: Neighbor & Neighbor winter fun! – Pat a Mat: Zimní radovánky (2018)


Neighbor & Neighbor winter fun! – Pat a Mat: Zimní radovánky (2018)

Directed by: Marek Benes | 60 minutes | family, animation | Dutch voice cast: Kees Prins, Siem van Leeuwen

A je to! The stop-motion animation characters Buurman and Buurman have been around since 1976 and even though the films have followed a similar pattern all these years – the males encounter a problem and try to solve it in the most innovative but at the same time most clumsy ways – they never get bored. The neighbors are called their own Pat and Mat and were created in the 1970s by the Czech animator Lubomír Beneš. In the then communist Czechoslovakia it was not made easy for him to record films. Pat and Mat were seen by the communist government as “undermining authority” and the fact that Pat wore a yellow jersey and Mat a red one would ridicule the tensions between the Soviet Union and China. The production was even banned for a number of years, but thanks to the support of fellow program makers in Bratislava, a way was found to record new films. To be on the safe side, Mat was given a neutral gray sweater, until communism finally fell in 1989. Over the years, ‘Pat en Mat’ has become an international phenomenon. The original films have no dialogue and appeal to a universal audience. The Netherlands is the only country in the world that provided the males with votes – those of Kees Prins and Siem van Leeuwen – and that partly determines the popularity of ‘Buurman en Buurman’ in our country.

Over the past few years, several ‘Buurman en Buurman’ films have already appeared in cinemas; these are not longer feature films, but collections of short films that are thematically linked. In ‘Buurman & Buurman winterpret’ (2018), as the title suggests, it revolves around winter scenes and the holidays. The neighbors get into trouble with an artificial Christmas tree that just won’t come out of the box, an unwilling piece of wrapping paper and a lost baby Jesus from the nativity scene. When Mat is outside clearing snow, he becomes so overcome by the cold that Pat decides to build him a sauna inside. The males also get snowed in, after which they figure out ways to get rid of the excess snow. Of course their houses have to be decorated for Christmas, but all those wires and plugs of the Christmas lights cause the necessary problems. And then suddenly it is December 31 and the gentlemen are already ready for the big moment in the afternoon. Of course they also have fireworks. And that’s not the only time something catches fire…

The seven films last about eight minutes on average and between each episode there is a teaser of a maximum of fifteen seconds to keep things going. The pattern is always the same, but the films have to rely on the power of repetition and recognisability. They never get bored. The neighbors are so wonderfully optimistic; no matter how things get out of hand and whatever goes wrong, they stay positive and we’ve never seen them angry. These new films are made by Beneš’ son Marek. It can be seen that the males have moved with the times, but the films remain timeless. The fumbling, the clumsiness and the brilliant and idiotic solutions that the little handymen come up with are entertaining for young and old. Despite the simplicity, it is striking how much attention the makers have for detail; the little houses are full of subtle jokes. Because above all, ‘Buurman en Buurman’ remains very funny, thanks in part to the wonderfully dry voices of Prins and Van Leeuwen. ‘Buurman & Buurman winter fun’ is timeless entertainment for young and old!

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