my-father-s-house-2012-das-haus-meines-vaters-wuest-review

MY FATHER’S HOUSE

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by Ludwig Wüst

grade: 8.5

The first chapter of the Heimatfilm-Trilogie (which also includes Farewell, 2014, and Heimatfilm, 2016), My Father’s House, dedicated to the director’s recently deceased parents, stages – like the author’s other films – an important inner change and can rightfully be classified as his most intimate and personal work.

Return to the origins

While, at the Diagonale 2019, a director of the calibre of Ludwig Wüst has already had the opportunity to impress us with features such as Egyptian Eclipse (2002) or his newest work, Departure (already present at the 68th Berlinale), of great, great emotional impact is My Father’s House, heartbreakingly beautiful, made in 2012 and probably the Austrian director’s most intimate and personal work.

With a mise-en-scène reduced to the essential, we see, in a car, a man and a woman friendly chatting while the man is driving. Then, suddenly: darkness, title and light again. This time we are in an old village house. The man and woman we met in the previous scene are about to open the door of the house and get carried away – now sitting at a table in the garden, now looking at old photographs – by the wave of memories. The father of the man in question has recently passed away. A return to his birthplace was therefore more necessary than ever.

While the rule of realism combined with a careful and never banal minimalism applies to all the Austrian artist’s works, in My Father’s House this rule is even taken to the extreme, thanks to a sophisticated (and rather difficult to shoot) long shot – lasting about fifty minutes and starting from the moment we see the two enter the house, until the end of the film – made by Wüst’s long-time cameraman, Klemens Koscher.

Dialogues – with the exception of a few sporadic lines – are consciously reduced to the essential. The soundtrack too, with the exception of a melancholic song from several decades ago (the favourite song of the protagonist’s mother) – absolutely diegetic.

This minimalism, however, is the most powerful element in a work that stages the overcoming of mourning, the return to the origins and – above all – the direct confrontation with the past. Thanks to the naturalness of the mise-en-scene and to small but essential details, it touches, surprises and deeply moves the spectator, who, at the end of the screening, has become part of the film.

Through the open window, the camera respectfully observes the two childhood friends chatting at a table in the garden, and then slowly lingers on the protagonist’s face, deep in thought, as his friend leaves to make a phone call. It only takes a few minutes to move inside, where we find the same man contemplating an old photograph of his mother as a young man, then taking it, clasping it to his chest and lying on the bed in the fetal position, in a moment of intimate meditation.

And then, last but not least, there is the house. The protagonist’s house is considered here as a real character. We understand this from the vivid and painful memories it is filled with, as well as from the religious silence in which it is immersed – almost as if it wanted to refuse any interference from the outside world – until the final, significant and highly moving shot, when, after the man’s decision to leave for good his village, his friend closes the shutters, leaving the camera to “peek” out through the cracks, following the people who have just left with parental love.

First chapter of the Heimatfilm-Trilogie (which also includes Farewell, 2014, and Heimatfilm, 2016), My Father’s House, dedicated to the director’s parents, who have recently passed away, stages – as in the author’s other works – an inner change, which occurred, also in this case, through a painful path of growth, and can rightfully be classified not only as his most intimate and personal film, but also as one of his most successful works, able to deeply touch the viewer as rarely happens.

Original title: Das Haus meines Vaters
Directed by: Ludwig Wüst
Country/year: Austria / 2012
Running time: 65’
Genre: drama
Cast: Nenad Šmigoc, Martina Spitzer
Screenplay: Ludwig Wüst
Cinematography: Klemens Koscher
Produced by: Ludwig Wüst

Info: the page of My Father’s House on ludwigwuest.works