Art theatre with dog and donkey: Angela Schanelec's wonderful “Ich war zuhause, aber” (i.e. I Was at Home, But) turns all the rules of cinema upside down.
By Philipp Bühler
An actor uses his body to lie. Says Astrid. Whether this is also Angela Schanelec's opinion in Ich war zuhause, aber is not quite clear. But the struggle to find a form of expression is undoubtedly a major theme of her new film. How can you say anything at all? Or “How do you talk to a radiator?” Astrid, who in every second of her strange talking insists upon truth, has many such questions. All her thinking fights against its own dissolution. Some would say that she’s not really all there.
Dissolution of strict form
Ich war zuhause, aber
tells the story of a woman who has lost her self-image as a mother after the death of her husband and who is fighting with her own role. It is Schanelec's first film in the Berlinale Competition; her previous films were shown in the Forum section. Orly
and Der traumhafte Weg
(i.e. The Dreamed Path) were characterized by their strict form; her new film seems to strive for dissolution. Astrid’s alienated relationship with her son is reflected in a school performance of Hamlet. Minor figures reveal hidden feelings of the main characters. In place of a plot there are apparently purposeless episodic leaps, such as the purchase of a bicycle that drives Astrid to despair. A strange prologue, in which a dog and a donkey say good night in a lonely mountain hut, should also be mentioned.
About the expressibility of pain
What do you say about a movie in which actors speak as in the theatre and all the rules of cinematic communication are turned on their heads? Paradoxically, this has made a good deal clearer to me the strange, slow and mainly very strenuous films of Angela Schanelec. By abandoning all claims to naturalism, she throws light on a brilliant misunderstanding. Her films illuminate philosophical questions of subjectivity and truth in everyday life, questioning the expressibility of unspeakable pain in art. Precisely through the theatrical devices, however, this all seems at once so much lighter, more honest, more personal – and in some places downright funny. Wonderful to see how art frees itself from itself.