• Leitmotiv

What to see in Viennale?

Crisp-clear fall evenings are here again, and cinephiles in Austria can start the long-awaited celebration of the beginning of the cinema season with Viennale, one of the oldest film festivals in the German-speaking world that every year presents an impressive collection of jewels found in Cannes, Venice, and Nyon, combined with a selection of cinema by young authors and retrospectives from forgotten archives.

Here are our recommendations for those yet to decide what to see this year.

1. Nomadland (Chloé Zhao, 2020) | USA, 108 minutes

"Following the economic collapse of a company town in rural Nevada, Fern (Frances McDormand) packs her van and sets off on the road exploring a life outside of conventional society as a modern-day nomad. Nomadland features real nomads Linda May, Swankie and Bob Wells as Fern’s mentors and comrades in her exploration through the vast landscape of the American West. "(Source: La Biennale)

The film captures the urge of seeing behind the horizon and lives through the loneliness and quietness of a nomad’s everyday routine. Loaded with questions of political nature, the film perfectly embraces the ambiance of being accountable only to time.

2. Hypernormalisation (Adam Curtis, 2016) | UK, 166 min

"HyperNormalisation tells the extraordinary story of how we got to this strange time of great uncertainty and confusion where those who are supposed to be in power are paralysed and have no idea what to do—and where events keep happening that seem inexplicable and out of control: from Donald Trump to Brexit, the War in Syria, the migrant crisis, and random bomb attacks. It explains not only why these chaotic events are happening but also why we, and our politicians, cannot understand them." (Source: BBC iPlayer)

Adam Curtis’ documentary is a hectic montage of history after WWII, told through a network of clustered events. His film is an ambitious attempt to map the apathy in the minds of those addressed.

3. Pirmais Tilts (Laila Pakalnina, 2020) | Latvia, 12 minutes

“Kraslava bridge is the first bridge built over the river Daugava in the territory of Latvia—a gate for the Daugava river from Belarus to Latvia”, explains Laila Pakalnina. “Every film is about time, but ours may be a bit more than others,” says the director to the Visions du Reel film festival.

A masterclass of compositional perfection, this film features objects as its protagonists. The usage of time in the film infuses it with hints of nostalgia and contributes to the impression of contemporaneity, portrayed as seen from the past.

4. The Human Voice (Pedro Almodóvar, 2020) | Spain/USA, 30 minutes

"A woman watches time passing next to the suitcases of her ex-lover (who is supposed to come pick them up, but never arrives) and a restless dog who doesn’t understand that his master has abandoned him. Two living beings facing abandonment. During the three days of waiting, the woman only goes out to the street once, to buy an axe and a can of gasoline. The woman goes through all sorts of moods, from helplessness to despair and loss of control." (Source: La Biennale)

This film is loosely based on the play of the same name by Jean Cocteau. Its leading actress Tilda Swinton creates an atmosphere of despair and revenge. The film features dynamic acting and is true joy for one’s eyes: this aesthetic, filled with red and blue tones on the walls and clothes, can only be characterized as Almadovarian.

5. Davos (Daniel Hoesl, Julia Niemann, 2020) | Austria, 99 minutes

“Beneath its reassuring façade, Davos is each year at the heart of the Western and capitalistic world. Every chief of State and everyone who is someone in the money world meets with their peers in the Swiss village. What is really at stake in Davos? Julia Niemann and Daniel Hoesl create a fascinating observational documentary in which judgement is never handed out and where the dialectics of conflicts matter more than easy and reassuring answers.” (Source: Visions du Reel)

Every year, politicians and businessmen enter a small Swiss village of 11,000 people. The two worlds, otherwise separated from each other, find themselves in close proximity, and the lens of the film is the one that finds this contrast a powerful force for the story development.

The 2020 edition of Viennale is taking place in 10 atmospheric cinemas in Vienna until Sunday, 1st of November.