diagonale 2024

25. April 2024

Diagonale 2024 Five films

Von Natalia Serebryakova

Stillstand (Nikolaus Geyrhalter)



The Devil’s Bath

In the 18th century, somewhere in an Austrian village, a woman throws a baby into a waterfall. Then she goes to the church and confesses that she committed the murder. She is refused to let go of her sin. Then the woman's head and fingers are cut off and her body is put on display for the villagers to see. However, there is another heroine in this film - a young girl Agnes (Anja Plaschg), who is getting married and really wants a child. But her husband is sexually and emotionally inept, so she wanders the village in search of adventure. Already at the beginning of the film, it is clear that the ending of this story will be tragic. The Devil’s Bath was produced by Ulrich Seidl, and directed by his former wife and regular co-writer Veronika Franz (and her co-director Severin Fiala). This historical psychological drama can not only frighten with candid shots of severed limbs, but also makes you think about the fate of Austrian women who lived in a remote province several centuries ago. Veronica Franz is an experienced screenwriter and has constructed the narrative in such a way that every subsequent frame surprises.


Sleeping with a Tiger

A biographical film directed by Anja Salomonowitz about the outstanding Austrian artist Maria Lassnig. Maria is played by the same actress Birgit Minichmayr, regardless of how old the protagonist is – 6 years, 25, 46 or 94. Maria lived a long, fruitful life, despite her liver problems. However, all her life she suffered from rejection from an artistic environment occupied by men. Her mother wanted to marry her off and did not allow her to see her father. Maria vegetated in Parisian apartments, and was very intractable with art managers. And one day she saved the life of an ant, and the animal thanked her, according to the fantasy of the director, who uses minimal special effects in her film. Maria was a wise child and remained a young girl into old age. A melancholical story of loneliness, self-expression and love of creativity.


Veni, Vidi, Vici

Another film from producers Ulrich Seidl and Veronika Franz with thanks to Nikolaus Geyrhalter. The main character, the investor Maynard, loves his family very much, his 13-year-old daughter Paola, two adopted daughters – an Asian and an African-European – and his wife Victoria. Victoria is at the age of early menopause, but wants to get pregnant a second time. They live in a luxurious house with a pool in the living room. Paola plays polo and accepts the courtship of Sylvester, a smart boy from another businessman's family, whose career Maynard ruined. But all is not well in this perfect Austrian family from the advertising wrapper. Maynard literally hunts people with a sniper rifle - this is his hobby. And the police and ministers cover him. This film has a lot in common with Seidl's Safari, as well as Jonathan Glazer's Oscar winner The Zone of Interest this year. In the center of the narrative is the calm and happy life of a person who has a devilish side. The sarcastic narrative sometimes enters the territory not only of black comedy, but also of thriller. The film criticizes modern Western society, behind the bright cover of which moral perversion hides, and all that circular bailout that rules the world of the rich and successful.



The film by Nicholas Geyrhalter himself turned out to be a Covid story, solved in the form familiar to this director. Austria's most famous living documentarian filmed footage throughout the pandemic in Austria. At the same time, the film was made in general in the style of Geyrhalter: long shots of deserted airports and streets, museums and supermarkets. Sometimes it even seems that this is a continuation of his most famous film Homo Sapiens, in which people are completely absent. Only in this film the ensuing apocalypse is of an artificial nature; in Stillstand, the cause of the empty European cities was the Chinese virus. But on the other hand, the new film is also innovative for the director, as silent footage accompanies multiple interviews – flower shop owners who give out their flowers free of charge, doctors who predict a medical collapse similar to the Italian one, teachers forced to teach students online. Oddly enough, but in a film on such a tragic topic, there are a lot of funny moments. One of them is a scene in an empty Catholic cathedral as a priest broadcasts his Easter sermon online.


Tomorrow I Leave

The plot of this documentary centers on 40-year-old Romanian Maria, who came to her homeland for a short vacation. She has a family here – a husband and two sons. Soon she will leave for Austria to work, where she takes care of an elderly person as a 24-hour nurse. Young director Maria Lisa Pichler knows the topic she's filming well: unemployment in less prosperous Eastern European countries (such as Poland, Bulgaria and Romania), forcing its citizens to look for work in the richer countris of the EU. A car with a camera inside is moving along a long street in a Romanian village. Maria points to houses and lists neighbors who have moved abroad. Almost everyone left. The film also has another psychological and everyday side, when the son complains to Maria that during her short visit home she is always talking on the phone and cannot pay enough attention to her family. This is the story of a woman who has to choose a difficult life abroad because life at home is also not easy.