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by Gastón Solnicki

grade: 8

The intimate, painful, deeply introspective Introduzione all’Oscuro is, according to the author, the most “spooky” film he has ever made. A film of light, shadows, now clearly defined, now irremediably blurred images.

Images from the past

On July 23, 2017, journalist, film critic and film historian Hans Hurch died suddenly in Rome. Director of the Viennale since 1997, Hurch was known in the industry for his great passion for cinema and for his extravagant modus vivendi. His life, however, has always been a mystery to many. Except, of course, for those who knew him well and were his friends.

This is, for example, the case of the young Argentinean director Gastón Solnicki, a true revelation in recent years, who also had the opportunity to be a guest at the Viennale (where in 2016 he won over audiences and critics with his Kékszakállú) and to make his work worldwide known. “Loaned”, therefore, on occasion of his friend’s death, to Austrian cinema, the director realized the intense and very personal documentary Introduzione all’Oscuro, presented Out of Competition at the 75th Venice Film Festival, as well as in the section dedicated to documentaries at the Diagonale 2019.

What we see immediately after the opening credits is a man walking alone through the streets of Vienna. A man apparently lost, but actually nostalgic and eager to bring back to life something – or rather, someone – that no longer exists. Then, suddenly, places, spaces, objects that, in one way or another, have played an important role in Hans Hurch’s life. A coffee cup from the legendary Café Engländer (just opposite the flat where the journalist lived); a postcard – rigorously hand-written, as Hurch used to do – of the Amalfi cliffs; a piano from the traditional Bösendorfer company; an elegant dress made of a particularly fine silk, but rather worn out due to constant use. These are some of the objects that, in Solnicki’s work, reconstruct Hurch’s life and allow us to get to know him.

And what does the director do in this case? With a few – but necessary – interviews with those who knew Hans Hurch, the young director opts for a “low profile” camera, close but not too close to what it’ s filming and, at the same time, attentive to details and respectful of a world that – until now – has never belonged to it. Interspersed with the story are intense still images of close-ups of the aforementioned objects. More than photographs, real pieces of a jigsaw puzzle which, seen all together, give us an idea of who Hans Hurch was.

Intimate, painful and deeply introspective, Solnicki’s work is, according to the author himself, the most “spooky” film he has ever made. With its essential, minimalist direction and music, the documentary cleverly plays with subtraction and succeeds in its intentions. The staging of someone who is no longer there, but who, through places, objects, manuscripts and photographs, left a vivid image of himself even after his death. A film of lights, shadows, now clearly defined, now irremediably blurred, but still very, very full of meaning images.

Although Solnicki’s precocious talent has already been revealed to the world in recent years, Introduzione all’Oscuro is further confirmation that the young Argentinean director is one of the names to keep an eye on in the world film scene. An author capable of transporting us into worlds previously unknown to us, but which, just a few minutes after the opening credits, become intensely familiar.

Original title: Introduzione all’Oscuro
Directed by: Gastón Solnicki
Country/year: Argentina, Austria / 2018
Running time: 71’
Genre: documentary
Screenplay: Gastón Solnicki
Produced by: Filmy Wiktora, KGP Kranzelbinder Gabriele Production, Little Magnet Films, Rei Cine

Info: Introduzione all’Oscuro’s page on the website of the Venice Film Festival