Augenblicke (Martin Bargiel, 2011, Germany)

The opening shot of Martin Bargiel’s Augenblicke, seen through the eyes of its main character as he stares vacantly back at his reflection in the distorting mirrored wall of an empty elevator car, may seem a mere matter of cinematic trompe l’oeil, yet it serves as an elegant motif for the film in its entirety, which plays like a dizzying waltz through a carnival’s hall of mirrors in which the disoriented viewer is scarcely able to orientate themselves amidst their new surroundings before being whisked away into another, more sinister sphere of consciousness.

The consciousness in question is that of Schenker who, upon leaving his apartment block one evening, stumbles upon the dead body of a fellow resident who has apparently fallen from one of its high windows. From this seemingly straightforward beginning, the film progresses into a maze of shifting perspectives and time-frames as the increasingly baffled Schenker tries to piece together the preceding events; or have they, in fact, happened at all? Rather than a Rashomon-like meditation on the perspectival nature of memory, the film’s elaborate construction seems to call into question the very plasticity of reality itself as Schenker is plunged ever further into a many-circled Dantean inferno.

What is remarkable is that, in spite of its complexity, the film is propelled by narrative coherence rather than hampered by it, and the seemingly breathless pace of its meta-narrative is in direct contrast to the slow near-mundanity of many of its individual scenes. This latter stillness, coupled with the woozy, jaundiced visual aesthetic reminiscent of Roy Andersson, only serves to make this surreal Borgesian labyrinth all the more unnervingly nightmarish.

Details on Vimeo here.

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