Still Life is very moving
by Boyd van Hoeij
- Austrian family drama Still Life premiered in Portugal as part of the IndieLisboa competition
One of the competition titles at the recent IndieLisboa Film Festival, the Austrian drama Still Life is the feature debut of director Sebastian Meise. It had its world premiere at the San Sebastian Film Festival in September.
Like the 2011 Cannes competition title Michael [+see also:
film profile], which also happens to be a debut feature, Still Life looks at paedophilia in Austria but in other respects the two films are very different.
In Still Life, Bernhard (Christoph Luser), the grown-up son of Gerhard (Fritz Hoertenhuber), sees his father give some written instructions to a prostitute (Anja Plaschg). Without thinking, he follows the woman, poses as a client and then gets his hand on the note as soon as he can.
What he reads in the note is shocking – though not for the audience, since the film opens with a voiceover that, it later turns out, reads out the contents of the note – namely that he wants the prostitute to act like a child and let him call her Lydia, the name of Bernard’s sister (Daniela Golpashin), who is now an adult as well.
Initially unsure what to make of it, Bernhard finally shares the note with his father, who promptly disappears, and then his sister and mother (Roswitha Soukop), who are both shocked. Though the film’s subject initially seems to be paedophilia – or, at least the sublimated desire to go in that direction on behalf of Gerhard – the screenplay, by the director and Thomas Reider, gradually shifts its attention to theripple effect the discovery has on this Austrian nuclear family and the question of whether anyone has ever noticed.
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