Opening 4 Aug 2011
Niki, Vito, Mizzi and Kyra return to the Austrian farmhouse they grew up in to bury Hans (Johannes Krisch), the man that was their father (-figure). They were part of a commune of twenty, among them couples with children and women whose children were fathered by Hans. The commune breaks up in 1987: the members can’t live up to their own expectations; resentments against ‘alpha-dog’ Hans are mounting, while he feels burdened by ‘having to think for them all’; Anna succeeds in having Hans’ eight-year old daughter Kyra expelled with her mother, so she and her infant daughter Mizzi can have Hans all to themselves. Anna (Marion Mitterhammer) is the one who has called the four to his deathbed. Niki (Philipp Hochmair), who had opted to stay with Hans when his natural parents decided to leave the commune, will be the last to see him alive. Vito (Andreas Kiendl), visibly shaken by the death of his natural father, drives up from Vienna with his wife Sophie and his half-sister Mizzi (Emily Cox). Neither expected Kyra (Andrea Wenzl) who arrives with her boyfriend Miguel; she hasn’t been heard from since she and her mother left. Mizzi can’t understand why she has never even been told of her half-sister; she wants to find out why she was forced to leave – a question that’s eating at Kyra as well. They consult Hans’ diaries and photographs and these trigger flashbacks of their childhood in this house that is the only location in this film – past and present.
The film doesn’t deliver a story but questions: What constitutes a family? How ‘thick is blood’? What is a father: provider – guardian – friend – ‘compass’ – sperm donor? Does it make a difference what we call him: Sir – Father – Dad – Hans? What is a child: Property? Heir? Trophy? Apprentice? It is not a critique of communes, although this one failed, and Hans – in Kyra’s words – would have never passed a “driver’s test for fathers if there was one”. Nuclear families have failed and succeeded. In the words of the director, Marie Kreutzer: it’s not the ‘model’ but what we make of it. Newer and hotly discussed family- and parenting models are already being lived; they come with a whole new vocabulary: egg- and sperm donors, surrogate mothers, same sex couples, and with questions whether words like mother- father -marriage still apply. Though in the beginning it is difficult to sort the complicated relations, and the conversations in Austrian dialect are impossible to follow (they should have been delivered with subtitles), this is an interesting film with a finely attuned cast and an important topic. (Carola A)