When you think about the subject matter of this film, all I can think about is how did they raise the money to make it? A film about a museum attendant who helps a visitor to the gallery where he works cannot have been an easy idea to get off the ground, yet this is an amazing film that washes over you as you wash.
The pace is slow, as you would expect from a film set in gallery, and it is only over time, through the brief exchanges, that you learn about the life of the museum attendant.
Johann works in the Kunsthistoriches Muzeum in Vienna. His days are spent ruminating on the lives of the visitors, their habits and behaviours. He has time to look closely at the art on display. Throughout the film we learn about his life, but only in snatches. This is what gives the film an hypnotic feel. That and the way the camera spends a long time following a gaze from a museum visitor to the painting and back again; details of famous works are shown but so are views from across the city.
Johann meets Anne at the gallery. She is a Canadian called to Vienna to attend to a relative she hasn’t seen for many years but who has fallen ill. She sits by her bedside in the hospital in a strange land, unable to converse with her cousin in a coma. The visit to the gallery provides some respite and, on meeting Johann, the two strike up a friendship. He helps her with the language barrier and they cross the city in his spare time to see the sights.
Jem Cohen has crafted a film to get lost in. It is in my hinterland. What’s in yours?