Review: ‘Soldate Jeannette’

"I'm going to watch this funny movie, 'Jeanne Dielman,'" the protagonist of "Soldate Jeannette" bizarrely announces -- and indeed, the most flattering read of Daniel Hoesl's striking but inscrutable debut feature is as an absurdist redesign of Chantal Akerman's feminist still life, down to the unexplained title.

“I’m going to watch this funny movie, ‘Jeanne Dielman,'” the protagonist of “Soldate Jeannette” bizarrely announces — and indeed, the most flattering read of Daniel Hoesl’s striking but inscrutable debut feature is as an absurdist redesign of Chantal Akerman’s feminist still life, down to the unexplained title. Dreyer and Godard are also explicitly name-checked in this deadpan study of a bourgeois Viennese housewife abandoning material living in the face of economic recession, though Ulrich Seidl, on whose “Paradise” trilogy Hoesl was an assistant director, is a clearer aesthetic influence. Incomplete curio will remain strictly fest-bound, though it’s not unpromising.

Dryly funny pre-credits sequence follows unflappable fortysomething Fanni (a committed Johanna Orsini-Rosenberg) as she buys a designer dress at great expense, only to toss it straight into the nearest recycling bin. That sets the pace, tonally and thematically, for her ensuing adventures, as she is evicted from her plush, rent-overdue apartment, literally burns her remaining assets and takes a job on a rural piggery, where she finds a kindred spirit in rebellious farmhand Anna (Christina Reichsthaler). Any allegorical interpretations are as open-ended as Bettina Koester’s slamming techno-pop score is emphatic.

Soldate Jeannette

Austria

Production

A European Film Conspiracy production. (International sales: European Film Conspiracy, Vienna.) Produced by Katharine Posch, Daniel Hoesl, Gerald Kerkletz. Executive producer, Posch. Directed, written by Daniel Hoesl.

Crew

Camera (color), Gerald Kerkletz; editor, Natalie Schwager; music, Bettina Koester, Peter Kutin; production designer, Hoesl; costume designer, Alexander Goll; sound, Andreas Pils; supervising sound editor, Gerhard Daurer; visual effects supervisor, Adi Markusich; casting, Hoesl. Reviewed at Sundance Film Festival (World Cinema -- competing), Jan. 21, 2013. (Also in Rotterdam Film Festival.) Running time: 78 MIN.

With

Johanna Orsini-Rosenberg, Christina Reichsthaler, Josef Kleindienst, Aurelia Burckhardt, Bettina Koester, Julia Schranz, Stephanie Fuerstenberg, Claus Philipp, Ines Roessl, Thomas Draschan, Gerald Matt. (German, French, English dialogue)

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