Is Austerlitz a look at how the present looks at the past or does the film simulate a look from the past on the present? I am not sure that these are two completely different things. But through choices concerning where to place the camera and through its use of sound, the film keeps both these slightly different possibilities open at all times. What I mean by a simulation of the past looking at the present is, that the possibility of the camera’s perspective belonging to the spirit of one of the many killed there is kept open (a visible one, if the tourists watch closely). In that same line of thought, the film’s use of sound (Andrey writes about „intensifications of a meticulously composed soundtrack“) with its distance enhancing distortions undergirds such a (not reading but) way of perceiving Austerlitz, as a ghost looking at the present. (I also vaguely remember reading that the film makes use of sound material from the time.) As does the fact that Austerlitz is shot in black and white. This is all not new to Loznitsa, of course, but there seems to have been an increase in the implications of his chosen means. Perhaps this comes over as an attempt to impose a simplistic interpretation of the film, though what I am trying to stress out is the incredible complexity of Loznitsa’s film. Austerlitz deals with and raises very delicate questions concerning film ethics, what is disturbing about the film lays (of course) not only in what it shows, but also in its way of showing it (here I mean disturbing as something positive). It is not seldom that Loznitsa’s films are discussed as refined exercises in observation and little more. I find them rather scandalous, in a very positive way. I would like to hear Cristi Puiu speaking about Austerlitz. He and Loznitsa move on the same slippery cinematic territory.
A secret award ceremony of the Viennale took place today at 5 a.m. at Gartenbaukino. Hans Hurch awarded the prize for brutality in film to Hong Sang-soo’s Yourself and Yours – irreproachable in (paradoxically) dealing with all kinds of reproaches (you can find Patrick’s review of the film here). A man looking like Hong Sang-soo walked up onto the stage to receive the prize but he swore he was actually the filmmaker’s twin brother. Or sister. It was too early in the morning, I couldn’t pay enough attention to what was happening. Woody Allen got furious and accused the South Korean filmmaker’s twin of having made only a tasteless remake of his film Everything you never wanted to know about relationships. The rivalry between Allen and Sang-soo has been much discussed in the press in the past few years seeing that two filmmakers compete yearly against each other for the title of “fastest working European film director”. (I heard that there are negative comments about the film making use of only a few locations. But that comes with an increase in intensity. Once again, Hong Sang-soo delivers one of the very best films of the year.)
It is odd. With actual human presence in the frame kept to a minimum, it feels at times as if Peter Hutton’s Budapest Portrait (Memories of a City) and Lodz Symphony bear the weight of the entire history of humanity. The absence of people draws attention to people. Yet what we see are streets and buildings at the crack of dawn, shapes and structures, textures and shades, wonderful details of all sorts. I remember the connection between motion and emotion coming up as a topic in Robert Gardner’s Screening Room with Peter Hutton. It is interesting to think about that again after seeing the two films.