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by Ludwig Wüst

grade: 8

Also in this precious little 3.30PM Ludwig Wüst retains the main themes and constants of his cinema, emphasising, if you like, certain trends already traced in the past. And here, that realism and minimalism that were so central in his previous works become quite essential.

Past and present

Returning, after many years, to a city where one has lived. Meeting an old friend and rediscovering a relationship that, despite the distance and the passing of time, has always remained alive and sincere. And, again, confronting the past and coming to terms with an uncertain and ever-changing present. The feature film 3.30PM – the newest work by the eclectic independent filmmaker Ludwig Wüst, as well as the third chapter of the Heimatfilm-Trilogie after My Father’s House (2012) and Departure (2018), which had its Austrian premiere at the Viennale 2020 – is fully in line with the canons that have characterised the author’s filmography to date, taking up some key concepts already dealt with in the past and updating the discourse on the present, on the lack of certainties, on the passing of time and on one’s own identity.

Martin and Anthony have been friends for a long time and, after a good fifteen years, they meet again in Vienna. Martin is an unemployed actor, lives in the Austrian capital and, totally unaware at first that his friend is filming him with a hidden camera, accompanies the latter to a place very dear to him. Anthony, for his part, is a musician and has lived in the United States for years. This return to the past will also be very significant for him.

Realism and minimalism, always the key words in Wüst’s filmography, become, in this 3.30PM, more pregnant than ever. The task of the two actors is to handle a micro-camera, while improvising the dialogues, but following precise guidelines. Exactly according to the canons of Dogma21, which takes its inspiration from the famous Dogma 95 movement, born in Denmark twenty-five years ago. And cinema itself plays a central role here, to say the least. The encounters between the two protagonists are observed from a distance, no one knows how things will turn out. The constant questions about the uncertain present inevitably lead to a painful past, just waiting to be rediscovered, so that they can finally start again. And a precise time, 3.30 in the afternoon, in fact, is here to take on an entirely central significance. At 3.30 in the afternoon, Martin, still a child, realised that he had been abandoned by his mother. A clock, identical to the one that once hung in his house, marks this moment forever.

Coming back home, to one’s native home, is again a central issue in this 3.30PM. And, similarly, places themselves are treated by the director as real characters: Martin and Anthony initially meet in a kind of non-place or, better still, a transitional place. A huge construction site stands between an old district of Vienna and a more recently built area – a so-called smart city – where there seems to be no trace of the past. Although not yet in the present. And it is precisely in this sort of limbo that the two protagonists examine their lives, for a sort of necessary preliminary ritual before finally coming to terms with their past. A limbo in which particular certainties and references can vanish from one moment to the next – see, for example, the ravine where an elderly homeless woman used to stay – and in which, if even for a moment you turn your gaze to the horizon, it is easy to remember where you came from or to guess in which direction you are going.

Even in this precious little 3.30PM, then, Ludwig Wüst keeps the main themes and constants of his cinema, emphasising, if you like, certain trends already traced in the past. And here, that realism and minimalism that were so important in his previous works become quite essential. There is no need for some virtuosity in order to get to the heart of the matter. Nothing else is needed but cinema of reality in its purest sense. A cinema that lbecomes even more powerful, even more communicative, finally free of any element that might distract the spectator from its core message. And, precisely for these reasons, a cinema that we like more and more.

Original title: 3.30PM
Directed by: Ludwig Wüst
Country/year: Austria / 2020
Running time: 74’
Genre: drama
Cast: Andrew Brown, Markus Schramm, Roswitha Soukup
Screenplay: Ludwig Wüst
Cinematography: Ludwig Wüst
Produced by: Ludwig Wüst

Info: the page of 3.30PM on the website of the Viennale; the page of 3.30PM on the website of Ludwig Wüst