untitled-2017-glawogger-willi-review

UNTITLED

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by Michael Glawogger and Monika WIlli

grade: 8

Michael Glawogger, in realising Untitled, his posthumous film, set off with his long-standing group of collaborators on a journey around the world – apparently without any final destination – filming reality as it is, without any filter, documenting destruction and rebirth, the degradation of certain situations around the world and, at the same time, the great power of human beings to recover, to rise from the ashes, to find a new purpose in life, new lifeblood.

The last journey

It can happen that, during the shooting of a film, directors die. It can happen and, from then on, the fate of the aforementioned film is more uncertain than ever. For instance, it had to wait more than three years, after the premature death of its author, until Untitled, the posthumous documentary by Michael Glawogger, who died in Liberia – after falling ill with malaria – while filming this work, was released. Strongly wishing for its definitive realisation was the long-time editor Monika Willi (together with cinematographer Attila Boa), who gave shape to the copious footage shot in 2014, the year in which Glawogger set off, together with his long-standing group of collaborators, on a worldwide – and, apparently, without any final destination – journey to film reality as it is, without any filter, documenting destruction and rebirth, the degradation of certain situations around the world and, at the same time, the great strength of human beings to recover, to rise from the ashes, to find a new purpose in life, new lifeblood.

Particularly meaningful, then, is the title itself: Untitled. In perfect harmony with the rest of his filmography, Glawogger wanted, in our case, to become one with reality, “simply” filming what was in front of his eyes and letting reality itself provide him with a (non-)definitive interpretation.

So a long, long – but never as long as initially hoped – journey begins in Italy, among the ruins of the small village of Apice Vecchia, in the Benevento area, destroyed by the 1980 earthquake. A few minutes later, we find ourselves in Mauritania, then in Senegal, before moving in the blink of an eye to remote cemeteries, on a beach where one-legged boys powerfully overcome their disability by playing football, in luxurious hotels symbolising dreams and unreality and – why not? – running at night on a skateboard, on breathless rides that remind us so much of Sion Sono’s lively cinema.

Not an easy job, therefore, was up to Monika Willi in attempting to keep the late Glawogger’s gaze alive and pulsating. In combining the numerous images at her disposal – in a fine work with a rigorously elliptical structure – the editor decided to insert, from time to time, a voice-over, together with Wolfgang Mitterer’s music. And this operation can be considered definitively successful. Who better than she, then, could have known Michael Glawogger’s intentions? Who would have known how best to express those shades of criticism – typical of the Graz documentary filmmaker’s cinema – together with the sense of despair and desolation that, finding refuge in dreams from time to time, ends up transforming itself into a feeble but still vivid hope?

It was a great loss for Austrian cinema – and, more generally, for world cinema – when Michael Glawogger died. A name, his, which, precisely because of his approach, has often been associated with that of the documentary filmmaker, his countryman, Nikolaus Geyrhalter. If, however, the latter seems much more disillusioned in his equally critical work, in Untitled, such disillusionment doesn’t seem to find fertile ground. And, perhaps, this is precisely the most precious gift that the director – as if, in some way, he had foreseen his imminent death – wanted to give us. And suddenly, his death seems almost like the prelude to a rebirth, as if he had reached a sort of “higher level”. Just like those boys who, following the misfortune that disabled them, play vital and joyful football under the sun, in spite of their sad fate.

A story, this one, which, just like the film itself, seems to have no end. Or better, a story whose end is not at all predictable. A story to which, then, no name can be given. A story destined, therefore, to remain forever untitled. Untitled.

Original title: Untitled
Directed by: Michael Glawogger, Monika WIlli
Country/year: Austria / 2017
Running time: 105’
Genre: documentary
Screenplay: Michael Glawogger, Monika Willi
Cinematography: Attila Boa
Produced by: Lotus Film

Info: the page of Untitled on iMDb; the website of Michael Glawogger