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by Thomas Zuber

grade: 6

In The Flackl Experience, classicism is juxtaposed with kitsch, resulting in a truly offbeat experience. All this makes for a documentary that, at the same time, also shows some naivety from a purely technical point of view.

A museum full of colours

There is a small inn in a small village in Austria – Reichenau an der Rax – where one of the biggest art collectors in the country lives and works. Here, Mr. Alfred Flackl has some eight hundred paintings on display, part of a collection that began many and many years ago. Yet, this singular reality is hardly known by anyone, except for a few visitors who happen to stay at the guesthouse. One of them is the young filmmaker Thomas Zuber, who made his graduation short film with the documentary The Flackl Experience. This work was selected for the Diagonale 2020 and, following the cancellation of the festival, was subsequently included in the programme Diagonale 2020 – The Unfinished.

Colourful pictures of cats, landscapes, portraits and even drawings depicting Alfred Flackl’s inn itself adorn the rooms and corridors of the inn. Alfred’s ex-wife Christl is responsible for the arrangement of the exhibits. Similarly, the artist Wolfgang Männer, the owner’s former brother-in-law, has several of his paintings on display here. All this makes for a small museum that unexpectedly appears whenever some passing visitor decides to spend a few days at this cosy little guesthouse.

Here, classicism is combined with kitsch for a truly out-of-the-ordinary experience, behind which there is, however, a skilful work of presentation. And so, Thomas Zuber’s camera moves through the corridors of the inn and into the individual rooms, occasionally interviewing Alfred Flack himself, sometimes his ex-wife Christl, and sometimes some of the visitors present, who are pleasantly surprised by the spectacle that has just appeared before their eyes.

A documentary, this The Flackl Experience which sees its greatest peculiarity precisely in what it shows, but which, at the same time, also presents some small ingenuities from a purely technical point of view, specifically regarding a sound editing that is not always clean and linear, as well as a mise-en-scène that is as classical as possible, lacking a real climax and which, at times, also seems rather uninspired. Yet the passion for what is being staged is undoubtedly tangible. And the small ‘errors’ present – if they can be called so – are evidently attributable to the director’s lack of experience behind the camera.

In any case, The Flackl Experience represents a real journey into a bizarre and undoubtedly fascinating reality. A reality where past and present meet, where art plays a leading role and where, even if only for a few minutes, we feel part of a world apart. A singular rarity in a small town in the heart of Austria.

Original title: The Flackl Experience
Directed by: Thomas Zuber
Country/year: Austria / 2019
Running time: 12’
Genre: documentary
Screenplay: Thomas Zuber
Cinematography: Thomas Zuber
Produced by: Thomas Zuber, Julia Schwanzer

Info: the page of The Flackl Experience on the website of the Diagonale; the website of The Flackl Experience; The Flackl Experience on youtube