An intense but funny interpretation of the poems and stories of forgotten Soviet dadaist Daniil Charms, this will be a hard one to swallow for all but die-hard intellectuals. Pic received the Caligari Award at the recent Berlin fest.
Charms wrote one book before dying in a Nazi prison camp during the war. Vienna-based director-writer Michael Kreihsl has adapted the various “poems and sentences” into an almost-story about a poor Russian poet (Johannes Silberschneider) who lives in Vienna, speaks German and has several bizarre adventures. He falls in love with a woman who keeps changing size as well as her mind, is picked up by the police in a Kafkaesque way, has his life narrated by a stranger (Ulrich Turkur) who keeps popping up, his hands turn into forks and knives, and so on.
Once you accept the movie’s concept, the various episodes are unexpected, well-executed and funny. Silberschneider’s perf is predictably laconic and droopy-faced, while Turkur (“Stammheim,””My Mother’s Courage”) saves the pic from boredom with his snappy, theatrical irony.
Oliver Bokelberg’s camerawork is brooding and dark, perfectly capturing the atmosphere and texture that Kreihsl aims for here. Production designers Renate Martin and Andreas Donhauser also ensure that the low-budget enterprise sticks in the mind.