Archiv der Kategorie: Sally Potter

Berlinale 2020: Day 7

By Sascha Krieger

DAU. Natasha (Competition / Germany, Ukraine, United Kingdom, Russia / Director: Ilya Khrzhanovskiy, Jekaterina Oertel)

DAU is Ilya Khrzhanovskiy’s gigantic but somewhat ill-fated art project about totalitarianism. It is also quite controversial, not least because of accusations of power and sexual abuse during its creation. Centered around many ours of film and embedded in a simulation of a Stalin-era-style society, it evolves around a Soviet-era science institute and its secret projects. DAU. Natasha is a two-and-a-half hour film extracted from the material. And it needs to be said at the outset that some of its graphic details sit uneasily especially in the light of the accusations. Judging the film on its own merits, therefore, is a rather difficult task but will be attempted here nonetheless. The film centers on the title character, a woman working in the institute’s canteen. Through much of the film we see her at work which never seems to cease in the hermetic world everyone is caught in. She banters and fights and reconciles with her younger, insolent colleague Olya, serves and jokes with the scientists, drinks with them after hours, sleeps with a French guest expert. The handheld camera captures the scene in grainy, sepia-tinged images, a close-up of a claustrophobic parallel universe which doesn’t have an outside (until the very end when that outside is revealed as yet wider prison confines. Some of this is redundant – especially when the film moves away from Natasha and shows the experiments conducted but also a few of the women’s squabbles are repetitive. However, the sense of this almost absurd airless universe is strong, the atmosphere dense. Which serves the film’s final third well as the dread becomes real and Natasha gets caught up in the deadly grips of the KGB. The interrogation scenes are conducted in the same mixture of naturalism and archival historicism, which makes the more than drastic brutality – which is indeed over the top and even downright abusive at times, especially in its aspects of sexualised violence – even more poignant. The mechanics of totalitarianism are evident in the matter-of-fact sadism of the officer and the „learning curve“ of Natalia Berezhnaya’s Natasha. So, while the film may be a little long, it presents an almost real-time glimpse into an exemplary totalitarian system. Just as if we’re visiting, looking on as invited voyeurs. Which is precisely what the DAU project was intended to be. Even though there remains a bad taste due to the circumstances and those many unanswered questions surrounding it.

DAU. Natasha (Image: © Phenomen Film)

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Perfekt weggespielt

Sally Potter: The Party, Burgtheater, Wien (Regie: Anne Lenk)

Von Sascha Krieger

Wenn ein Stück The Party heißt und es darin um eine solche geht, dann weiß der erfahrene Theatergänger, dass diese nicht in Wohlgefallen, sondern einer ausgewachsenen, meist komischen Katastrophe enden wird. Das ist auch in Sally Potters Adaption ihres eigenen gleichnamigen Films der Fall. Darin feiert die britische Oppositionspolitikerin Janet mit ein paar engen Freund*innen ihre Ernennung zur Schattenministerin. Im Laufe des Abends kommen Geheimnisse ans Tageslicht, ihre Ehe zerbricht, die Halbwertzeit anderer Beziehungen scheint ebenfalls erreicht, Stück und Film enden mit der Möglichkeit eines bevorstehenden Mordes. Im gerade einmal 71 Minuten langen Film taucht Potter die Geschichte in kaltes, gediegenes Schwarz-Weiß, arbeitet mit schnellen Schnitten, einer düsteren Künstlichkeit, die dem Film etwas Karges, fast Gespenstisches gibt, die boulevardeske Handlung ins Existenzielle kippen lässt. Das ist auch den Spieler*innen zu verdanken, allen voran Timothy Spall, der Janets Ehemann Bill mit einer gebrochenen Todeskälte und Lebensmüdigkeit auflädt, die jedem Lachen eine äußerst bittere Note verleihen. Hier, so sagt der Film, geht es um Größeres als um eine elegante Mittelstandssatire.

Bild: Matthias Horn / Burgtheater

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Berlinale 2017: Day 5

By Sascha Krieger

The Party (Competition / United Kingdom / Director: Sally Potter)

A politician has just been promoted and is throwing a little afternoon party for her closest friends. This is the setting of Sally Potter’s aptly named film. Impeccable black and white leads the viewer into a cosy, comfortable upper middle class home, not too posh, not too shabby. The crisp cleanness of the imagery cannot hide the disaster that will soon unfold for very long. At the end of the 71 minutes the passing of which hardly goes noticed, a man has almost died, several relationships and friendships have collapsed, one may have been mended and a murder might well be about to be committed. In a fast-paced satirical comedy full of witty lines and characters that are better or worse at hiding their bruises and resentments, The Party feels like a vivisection on the body of the intellectual and reasonable middle class, a body that looks healthy from the outside (again, the carefully composed black and white frame do their purpose) but is riddled with cancer inside. Their subjects have spent so much time at keeping up appearances that substance has long given way. Is there any foundation left to these relationships or is the well-meaning world of those who profess to create a better world but might well be too caught up in their careers to not have lost sight of what’s true. Although: what is truth anyway? A question whose answer doesn’t appear that obvious. Not only here. A hilarious comedy and a devastating social miniature, The Party, performed by an exquisite cast, leaves a smile and a bitter taste. Oh, and the cast is great, too.

The Party (Image: © Adventure Pictures Limited 2017)

The Party (Image: © Adventure Pictures Limited 2017)

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