Austrian drama brings out cold emptiness of a spiritless world
(15) 74 min
Jessica Hausner shows the same eerie sense of place as she would show in her recent Lourdes, a gaze that makes simple details stand out in all their bland terror. As Irene (Franziska Weisz) takes a job as a desk clerk in a luxury Austrian hotel, Hausner isn’t so much interested in the luxury but the uncanny feeling that this is a hotel where a swimming pool offers quiet menace and everyone acts slightly off-kilter. The manager of the hotel says at one moment doors must be kept locked: ‘the devil never sleeps’.
Recent Austrian cinema has a way with plaintive framing to bring out the cold emptiness of a spiritless world, whether this is Michael Haneke’s work in The Seventh Continent and Benny’s Video or Ulrich Siedl’s with Dog Days and Import/Export. But it is also here in the transitive nature of the characters’ actions. When Irene asks a colleague if she’ll cover for her so she can go and visit her sick mum, the other girl agrees but insists, ‘you owe me’. Minimal extras.