DIAGONALE 2015: AUSTRIAN AVANT-GARDE CINEMA
By Claudia Siefen
It is still interesting to queue and finally visit an Experimental Film Program, even when that happens during a Film Festival that calls the Avant-garde not Avant-garde anymore but “Innovative Cinema”. As long as you leave the cinema, inspired, feeling respected and yes, also entertained by the filmmakers. We will see how this section will be called by the festival in the next year, starting then with a brandnew leadership.
Starting with the short feature (Ohne Titel) by Ludwig Wüst. As a film director he is constantly working on his disappearance, in order to bring the work of actors completely to the center and attention of his films. This time he based his film on the pure camera work of his main actress Gina Mattiello. Prior conversations between the director, the cinematographer Klemens Koscher and Mattiello herself nailed the expectations that Wüst had but the results, of course, later went all different than expected. And Wüst exactly aimed for that. He is also using a little “catalogue trick“, mentioning there that “a woman in her late thirties leaves home and drives to a hotel to encounter the man who raped her twenty years before…“. Well, the story we see then seems to be somehow different: The change of seasons, the woman’s observation of not only one man, porn scenes on the TV and the lyrical handling of the female narrating voice gives me the impression of treating the delicate subject of a female rapist. So as an audience, how much of your expectations lead you to the cinema and finally influence you in “consuming“ a story you believe to witness on the big screen?
Exhibition Talks by Sasha Pirker and Lotte Schreiber, involves a hazed-like black&white and introduces you to an exhibition hall. Starting as a workmanlike film on architecture the off-voice is adding a special layer. Who exactly is talking here? Are we lead through several floors and corners of an exhibition hall? Or is it possibly the room itself “talking“ and introducing us to its very own characteristics? The hall is the “aut. Architektur und Tirol“, built in 1927 by the architect Lois Welzenbacher (1889-1955) and located in Innsbruck. The film received the “Prize Innovative Cinema“.
Praxis-14 (selection, 5 scenes) by Dietmar Brehm, included Licht where he “googled“ and discovered a bad lampshade film loop. He filmed the loop and converted it into a negative from the screen, the scene turned yellow, and Bertram Hellermann improved the Loop Cut; Hallo Hallo presents a man, a loop maybe from a Fritz Lang Mabuse film scene, jumping to the side because of a smashing down heavy object. Sonne Halt shows a few birds perching and circling two chimneys of the castle Grafenegg, a black-and-white negative image converted and assembling a big red sun between those chimneys; Cocktail is nothing but a blue colored camera lens manipulation and a pretty cocktail sound. And Hallo Mabuse, a pink coloured negative construction, stormy sounds and church bells, an old phone, a pendulum and a guillotine. The Praxis series, begun in 2007, and has become a favourite project for Brehm, as he claimed “it will keep me busy for the rest of my life“.
Every-one by Willi Dorner is inspired by “Arts de Faire“ (1980) by Michel de Certeau (1925-1986). Within a beautiful jump-performance of young people, dressed in black trousers and white shirts, he introduces popular culture, the basic techniques, the tricks, feints and lists of consumers, just like walking, travelling, storytelling, speaking, writing, thinking, reading, making such culture possible. Dorner is showing us that to jump is only to lack a place: “To practice space is to repeat the joyful and silent experience of childhood; it is, in a place, to be other and to move toward the other (MdC)“.
Black Rain White Scars by Lukas Marxt is the next film on “his topic“, the relationship between the spectator and his surroundings. The place is Hong Kong, a city including tropical cyclones, strong winters and summer monsoons, but here now bringing together electricity, wind and atmospheric pressure: a storm is coming up. Different forces form a very particular constellation start interfering with the audience’s ability to hear and to understand any further signals. Marxt is looking for a language of the city, of every city, and transforms the concrete reality of social civilization into an abstraction. We are so much used to manipulated videos that this film is balm to the eyes, just place your camera in a window and wait for an hour…
The feature Centaurus by Wolfgang Rupert Muhr will finish my selection here, a surreal odyssey in a local recreation area. Not only the exceptional editing by Melanie Ratz will stir your blood but also the exact screenplay. The film is packed with insinuations and references to the Greek mythology. The main character is a reformed alcoholic who wants to spend a nice weekend countryside with his wife. But that romance is on blade edge, with every second the mood impends to change suddenly. The main ambiance of the film is based on Puccini’s iconic aria “Nessun dorma (None shall sleep)“, written in 1926. The melody sets the rhythm over the two hours of the film, as we follow the main character (impersonated by the director himself) loosing his job, fighting his lust for a drink in the green woods and the lovely sunshine, and this dark thoughts of how messed up his life now seems to him. As if this was not enough his colleagues visit him, and also his sister in law with her new boyfriend and a tender horror unfolds. But what is the “real world“ here? Isn’t it just all based on small events coursing through his brain, working them up with dream-like scenes? Powerful but slinking: “¡Il nome suo nessun saprà!… e noi dovrem, ahime, morir! / No one will know his name and we must, alas, die!.“
*Notes concerning my very personal selection of Austrian Avant-garde Cinema seen during the “Diagonale”, Festival of the Austrian Film in the year 2015.