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Film Review: ‘My Blind Heart’

Peter Brunner makes a visually arresting black-and-white debut with this experimental study of a man suffering from Marfan syndrome.

With:

Christos Haas, Jana McKinnon, Susanne Lothar, Georg Friedrich, Robert Schmiedt, Christopher Scharf. (German, English dialogue)

Experimental narrative “My Blind Heart” follows a man suffering from the effects of Marfan syndrome — a genetic connective tissue disorder that can affect numerous body parts and functions as he lives a semi-feral life in Vienna after the death of his mother. Visually arresting in high-contrast black-and-white, Peter Brunner’s debut feature is hardly a hot commercial prospect, but will appeal to fest and cinematheque programmers looking for challenging, accomplished new work.

Pic is dedicated to thesp Susanne Lothar (a regular in the films of Brunner’s former teacher Michael Haneke), who died during a four-year production schedule and is seen here in flashbacks as the protag’s mom. In the present tense, perilously thin, nearly blind, skeletally malformed Kurt (Christos Haas, who has Marfan syndrome) gets kicked out of a residential care facility for antisocial behavior. Yet he can be an empathetic listener and calming influence on more agitated personalities, such as Conny (Jana McKinnon), a runaway of about 13 with whom he comes to share the shelter of an abandoned office-building floor. They play weird games that always seem to be at his expense; later, when she’s gone, he reveals his own cruel streak in similar hijinks with friend Robbie (Robert Schmiedt), who has Down syndrome.

Poetic voiceover limns Kurt’s sense of body-focused alienation and hopelessness, and the purchase of a firearm proves fateful, of course. There’s very little plot here, per se, and many scenes feel like the product of improvisation. The resulting meandering feel can test patience, but “My Blind Heart” is so highly worked texturally that it compels at least sensory interest throughout. Brunner and d.p. Franz Dude share a strong sensibility in composition, camera movement and avant-garde montage, the images sometimes blurring lines between real and imaginary, past and present, to convey Kurt’s inner life.

Though our understanding of his character’s personality and limitations (especially psychological) remains just partial, Haas is a vivid screen presence. Other performers, some also presumably playing variations on themselves, are effective. All design/tech aspects are inventively polished on slim means.

Film Review: 'My Blind Heart'

Reviewed at Slamdance Film Festival (competing), Jan. 21, 2014. (Also in Rotterdam Film Festival —competing.) Running time: 92 MIN. Original title: "Mein blindes Herz"

Production:

(Austria) A Cataract Vision presentation. (International sales: Cataract, Vienna.) Produced by Therese Seeman, Klara Von Veegh.

Crew:

Directed, written, edited by Peter Brunner. Camera (B&W, HD), Franz Dude; music, Cardiochaos; production designers, Simone Raab, Nina Salak; set decorators, Raab, Salak, Christina Romirer; sound, Philip Zauner; sound designer, Laura Endres; assistant director, Melani Murkovic; casting, Flora Rumpler, Murkovic.

With:

Christos Haas, Jana McKinnon, Susanne Lothar, Georg Friedrich, Robert Schmiedt, Christopher Scharf. (German, English dialogue)

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