Struggle

Mader explores in a relentless, documentary-style the miserable lives of an illegal Polish worker in Austria and a divorced, middle-aged real estate agent. Only the most indulgent festivals will program this gloomy item after its Cannes debut, and commercial chances appear non-existent.

With:
Ewa - Aleksandra Justa Harold - Gottfried Breitfuss Doctor - Margit Wrobel Martin - Martin Brambach

In the opening sequence of 29-year-old Ruth Mader’s first feature, an old lady throws urine on a doctor during a hospital visit. What follows, though mercifully brief at 76 minutes, is scarcely more edifying, as Mader explores in a relentless, documentary-style the miserable lives of an illegal Polish worker in Austria and a divorced, middle-aged real estate agent. Only the most indulgent festivals will program this gloomy item after its Cannes debut, and commercial chances appear non-existent.

Ewa (Aleksandra Justa) wants a better life in Austria for herself and her small daughter. In well photographed but agonizingly over-extended sequences, she works as a strawberry picker (mostly in driving rain), in a turkey processing plant and as a cleaner. She doesn’t communicate with her fellow workers, or even with her daughter.

Harold (Gottfried Breitfuss) tries to persuade his singularly unimpressed daughter to tell him she loves him. He spends his working hours inspecting empty warehouses, and at night eats alone. But he takes part in a seriously kinky sexual scene where he meets Ewa.

Mader observes her characters’ pain unblinkingly, but she doesn’t bring the insight needed for viewers to sympathize with her wretched protagonists. The result is an unpleasant film, not so much confronting as simply numbing, and it seems longer than it actually is.

Struggle

Un Certain Regard / Austria

Production: A Struggle Films-Amour Fou Filmproduktion production. (International sales: Austrian Film Commission, Vienna.) Produced by Ruth Mader. Co-producers, Gabriele Kranzelbinder, Alexander Dumreicher-Ivanceanu. Directed by Ruth Mader. Screenplay, Mader, Martin Leidenfrost, Barbara Albert.

Crew: Camera (color), Bernard Keller; editor, Niki Mossbock; production designer, Ilona Glockel; sound (Dolby Digital), Elisabeth Reeth; casting, Roland Zumbuhl. Reviewed at Cannes Film Festival (Un Certain Regard), May 18, 2003. Running time: 76 MIN.

With: Ewa - Aleksandra Justa Harold - Gottfried Breitfuss Doctor - Margit Wrobel Martin - Martin Brambach

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