It’s difficult to have an opinion on Schanelec’s new film, which is decidedly inscrutable though it retains the German slow cinema auteur’s unique sensibilities as it explores themes of fate, guilt and grief in an elusive way.
Dir. Angela Schanelec
2023 | Germany | Drama | 108 min | 1.85:1 | German, Greek & English
Not rated – likely to be NC16 for some nudity
Cast: Aliocha Schneider, Agathe Bonitzer, Marissa Triantafyllidou
Plot: Abandoned at birth in the Greek mountains on a stormy night, Jon is taken in and adopted, without having known his father or mother. As a young man, he meets Iro, a warden in the prison where he is incarcerated after a deadly tragic accident.
Awards: Won Best Screenplay & Nom. for Golden Bear (Berlinale)
International Sales: Shellac
Subject Matter: Moderate – Fate; Guilt; Grief
Narrative Style: Slightly Complex
Audience Type: General Arthouse
Having seen nearly all of Angela Schanelec’s output, I think her latest, Music, could be her weakest to date. Having said that, her brand of cinema is often difficult to subject any kind of barometer to.
Music is at once a Schanelec film, retaining the German auteur’s unique slow cinema sensibilities, but this time instead of the more conversational films that she is known for, we get only a few scenes of dialogue (which kinda boggles the mind that she won Best Screenplay at the Berlinale).
Much of the film is made up of vignettes, so loosely based on the myth of Oedipus, that it might not even be useful to think about it. Instead, one could see Music as a modern meditation on life, particularly exploring the themes of fate, guilt and grief.
“The water runs on, but she has gone.”
To begin with, there is not much of a plot, perhaps even more so than the director’s other works, which are already considered rather plotless.
We know a person is abandoned and later adopted. We know a person is incarcerated but finds love. We know someone is going blind but music becomes a source of strength (finally a connection to the film’s title).
Music is decidedly inscrutable and while it invites interpretations of all kinds, be it philosophical or allegorical, I’m not quite sure whether the film really succeeds in doing so—that is, to provoke us to think without at the same time being too conjectural. A mild disappointment at the very least.