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EGYPTIAN ECLIPSE

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by Ludwig Wüst

grade: 8

According to the author’s words, it is a sort of Odyssey with no return, Egyptian Eclipse. A journey, above all an inner one, that slowly leads to the abandonment of everything related to the past – and, with it, also of the attachment to any material good – and that culminates in the middle of a symbolic desert.

Towards infinity

An all-round artist particularly dear to the Diagonale, Ludwig Wüst. To him is dedicated – during the 2019 edition – a personal space within the In Referenz section, within which the author himself commented and introduced to the public two of his works: Egyptian Eclipse (2002) and My Father’s House (made in 2012).

Specifically, this first film is also his first directorial experience in film (after a background in theater), in which, despite a limited experience behind the camera, one can already detect a remarkable maturity, as well as many stylistic features and elements also present in his later works.

Firstly, there is a great inner solitude. Egyptian Eclipse – based on the text Der Fall Franza by Ingeborg Bachmann – stages the story of a young woman (played by a brilliant Michaela Conrad) who suddenly decides to abandon her bourgeois life in Vienna and embarks on a long journey to Cairo. According to the author’s words, then, Egyptian Eclipse is a sort of Odyssey with no return. A journey, above all an inner journey, which slowly leads to the abandonment of everything related to the past – and, with it, also of any attachment to material goods – and which culminates in the middle of the desert.

Dialogues are reduced to the bone. The protagonist speaks as little as possible. The only constant is a voice over reciting Ingeborg Bachmann’s original words. And so we are immediately reminded of Departure – Ludwig Wüst’s newest film, premiered at the 68th Berlinale – which has much more in common with this work than one might expect. Even though sixteen years had elapsed between one film and the other.

While, in fact, as previously mentioned, the story begins from an inner loneliness, the same applies to the following work, where, similarly to Egyptian Eclipse, the theme of the journey and the search for oneself (as well as a great, great desire to escape to something not yet well defined) becomes, in no time, the main actor. However, while Departure‘s care for aesthetics was achieved through the use of digital technology, in Egyptian Eclipse it is still – and fortunately! – film to play its role as narrator, making the images similarly accurate and studied down to the last detail, despite the purely documentary imprint that the director wanted to give to the work.

The scenes in which Michaela Conrad, on the run, looks around in wonder, slowly discovering the new city in a car or on a balcony are particularly impressive. Just as great attention is paid to the human figure in the moments when the young woman is relaxing in a hotel room.

Then, suddenly, the unexpected. The colours are turned into negative, showing us a desert in colour bands that remind us of an oil painting or a photograph by Franco Fontana. And then, gradually, the colours turn more and more into red, bringing to mind Marco Ferreri’s masterpiece, Dillinger is Dead, with its magnetic and unexpected ending.

Like the visual effects, then, the story gradually becomes more and more abstract as we approach the end and reach what is probably the most significant moment of the film, when the protagonist is about to hide her wedding ring inside a small rock filled with sand. A past life that is abandoned forever, to make way for the new, the unknown, the extrasensory, the sublime.

Original title: Ägyptische Finsternis
Directed by: Ludwig Wüst
Country/year: Austria / 2002
Running time: 66’
Genre: drama
Cast: Michaela Conrad, Hani Amr Abdullah, Mohammed Kosa, Ludwig Wüst
Screenplay: Ludwig Wüst
Cinematography: Raffael Kinzig
Produced by: Film-pla.net

Info: the page of Egyptian Eclipse on ludwigwuest.works