Orly (2010)

In Schanelec’s under-appreciated slow cinema oeuvre, this could be one of her ‘noisiest’ and most perceptive works as we become privy to the intimate conversations of several groups of strangers who are waiting to depart at the busy Paris-Orly airport.    

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Review #2,543

Dir. Angela Schanelec
2010 | France/Germany | Drama | 80 min | 2.35:1 | French, German & English
Not rated – likely to be NC16 for sexual references

Cast: Josse De Pauw, Maren Eggert, Natacha Regnier
Plot: At the Paris airport Orly, a woman falls for a stranger, a family heads to a funeral, a couple loses touch, and a wife reads her husband’s break-up letter. All wait for their planes. 
Awards: Official Selection (Berlinale)
International Sales: Films Boutique

Accessibility Index
Subject Matter: Moderate – Transit; Human (Dis)Connections
Narrative Style: Straightforward – Mosaic Style
Pace: Slightly Slow
Audience Type: General Arthouse

Viewed: MUBI
Spoilers: No

With Orly, I’m very near to completing Angela Schanelec’s filmography.  While she doesn’t make truly astonishing films, she is someone whose works I always look forward to seeing. 

Part of a new breed of German filmmakers who blossomed in the late ‘90s, including the likes of Christian Petzold and Fatih Akin, Schanelec is probably one of the least known and appreciated purveyors of slow cinema. 

Although regarded as a minor effort by critics, Orly somehow resonates with me deeply.  I think it is one of her best films, together with Marseille (2004) and I Was at Home, But (2019).  It is somewhat a detour from her usual quiet, unassuming style. 

Here, we are planted right in the busy Paris-Orly airport as we become privy to intimate conversations with several groups of strangers.  As such, it is one of her ‘noisiest’ works; it is also an incredibly perceptive one by her standards. 

“I had the feeling I didn’t deserve my happiness and that all of life was pure chance.”

As these people wait for their flights, we learn about why they are there, awaiting their departure.  Family issues, work problems and tenuous relationships are some of the reasons (or excuses) given.

At the same time, something potentially distressing is brewing outside the airport.  We are never sure what.  As time passes and conversations begin, stutter and end, Orly becomes a crossroads of thoughts, unspoken or otherwise. 

Schanelec’s camera observes everyone like a hawk but is never judgmental.  She rarely uses close-ups, and hence documents both people and space together, treating a place of transit as a metaphor for human existence, one that Richard Linklater would crystalise three years later with Before Midnight (2013) in one of contemporary cinema’s most deeply affecting lines: “Like sunlight, sunset, we appear, we disappear. We are so important to some, but we are just passing through.”

Grade: A-


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