Reviewed at Sarajevo Film Festival (New Currents) Aug. 21, 1999. Running time: 48 MIN.
With: Klaus Handl, Milena Oberndorfer, Birgit Doll, Nica Steinbauer, Andreas Zacharsiewicz.
An aimless young man searches for the meaning of happiness but descends into madness in Jessica Hausner’s occasionally watchable, mostly flat first film, which has dim export potential.
Beginning in midstory, pic presents a nameless drifter (Klaus Handl) who prowls his city with a tape recorder asking strangers what it means to be happy. Apathetic and colorless, offering no information about himself, he is arrogantly detached from his subjects even as he aggressively interrogates them. He interviews his neighbor, a plain, quiet young woman (Milena Oberndorfer) who has recently found her first love relationship. But her newfound tranquillity frustrates the interviewer; it seems forever beyond his grasp. A second chance meeting has frightening consequences. Hausner’s spare visual technique is detached and stiff; she never cuts within scenes, instead filming long master shots with a firmly, sometimes awkwardly planted camera that deliberately keeps the viewer at a distance. Obviously, the approach is meant to reinforce the distance between the interviewer and his society, but the sense of stasis is finally far more dull than disquieting.