MEATGRINDER

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by Houchang Allahyari

grade: 7

We are spared nothing, during the screening of Meatgrinder. The director, with an extremely essential approach, gets straight to the point. And, likewise, a harsh, deliberately dirty aesthetic is perfectly appropriate for what Houchang Allayari wanted to denounce in this short but important film of his.

Vienna’s hidden side

Colourful, crowded, noisy and with a balanced mixture of lightness and sensitive topics. These are some of the salient features of Houchang Allahyari’s cinema. Originally from Iran, but a Viennese by adoption, the director – who throughout his career has also continued to practise as a doctor at the same time – has successfully drawn an exhaustive fresco of a cosmopolitan and ever-changing society such as Austria’s in about forty years. And if, indeed, feature films like Born in Absurdistan (1999) or I Love Vienna (1991) focus precisely on the issue of immigration, then Meatgrinder – made in 1990 – wants to show us a harsh and painful reality that nobody is really aware of. The reality experienced every day by young people in their late teens inside the city’s juvenile prison.

A sunny day in the park. An old woman feeding the birds. Children playing and having fun. Couples enjoying the beautiful day and sunbathing. All these images that recall moments of relax, far away from hectic life – and which, following a precise elliptical structure, occur both at the opening and the closing of the feature film – are the perfect counterpoint to what the director’s camera really wants to focus on.

And so, in the cramped corridors of a juvenile prison, we witness the vicissitudes of Mario (played by Maximillian Müller), a boy who in the past has experienced numerous episodes of violence within his own family, Richie (Thomas Morris), a musician about to become a father, and Jörg (an always great Hanno Pöschl), who is used to organising rather shady dealings within the prison itself.

We are not allowed to know what crimes each of them committed. And only in the case of Mario – thanks to frequent flashbacks in which we see his mother now portrayed as a Raphael’s Madonna, now beaten by her husband – we can guess something about his past.

The director is only interested in what happens inside the prison, amidst violence, abuse and guards who do not seem to notice anything. And it is precisely a strong criticism of the prison system the real focus of Meatgrinder. Here, human beings are often treated like pieces of meat. Moments of violence are made even more bloody by a skilful alternating montage that shows us, at the same time, a boy intent on mincing, precisely, pieces of meat.

We are spared really nothing during the screening of Meatgrinder. The director, with an extremely essential approach, gets straight to the point. Likewise, a harsh, deliberately dirty aesthetic is perfectly appropriate for what Houchang Allayari wanted to denounce in this short but important film of his. The bright, warm and reassuring light that we see at the opening and closing of the film during the scenes filmed in the park, then, contrasts strongly with the dark, grey and blue colours inside the prison. All this reflects a reality that no one really knows up close and which is consequently often ‘forgotten’. Just like all the crimes that are committed within it.

Original title: Fleischwolf
Directed by: Houchang Allahyari
Country/year: Austria / 1990
Running time: 70’
Genere: drama, coming-of-age
Cast: Hanno Pöschl, Cecile Nordegg, Robert Hauer-Riedl, Maximilian Müller, Thomas Morris, Christopher Heinz, Edith Nordegg, Günter Einbrodt, Rainer von Artenfels, Martin Brunhuemer, Bettina Parschacik, Anneliese Klena, Irene Abraham, Gudrun Tielsch, Barbara Demmer, Maria Lasl, Manu Luksch, Gesa Gross, Trude Partorotti
Screenplay: Houchang Allahyari, Tom-Dariusch Allahyari
Cinematography: Udo Maurer, Herbert Tucmandl
Produced by: Epo-Film Produktionsgesellschaft

Info: the page of Meatgrinder on iMDb