MEGACITIES

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by Michael Glawogger

grade: 8.5

It would be a mistake to classify Megacities as a simple documentary. Megacities is actually much more. Megacities is a journey through the world’s biggest cities, a colourful fresco that tells us in pictures the stories of those who live on the margins of society.

All the colours of the world

How many emotions the unforgettable Michael Glawogger has given us during his short but extremely prolific career. How many journeys, how many new realities we have experienced thanks to his films. And, above all, how much we miss him! Yet thanks to cinema, we can live and relive such experiences whenever we want. A documentary that, precisely because of its magnetic appeal, we would watch hundreds of times, for example, is the beautiful Megacities (1998). But it would be reductive to classify Megacities as a simple documentary. Megacities is actually much more. Megacities is a journey through the world’s biggest cities, a colourful fresco that tells us in pictures the stories of those who live on the margins of society.

Twelve stories of survival. Twelve stories that have in common a difficult everyday life, but also dreams, hopes, fun times. In Bombay, there are people who sing happy songs on board crowded buses. In Mexico City, at the same time, a mother must work every night as a stripper in order to support her three children. In New York, a young man prostitutes himself in order to buy a dose of heroin. He seems to have forgotten what his dreams once were. And finally, in Moscow, a young woman performs heavy labour in a factory. These are just a few of the stories Glawogger has told us in this important documentary of his. And in each of these stories, the protagonists seem to us more alive than ever.

The hectic pace of big cities immediately captures our attention during the first scenes shot in Bombay. Frequent use of fast motion punctuates the workers’ rhythms. Then, suddenly, the magic of cinema captivates us. And it also captivates numerous children in the streets of the city. Every city has its colours, every city has its stories. And only the great sensitivity of Michael Glawogger could have told them so well.

Colours and emotions come together and create something magical. Something magical and deeply painful. But also, at the same time, something extremely poetic. Syringes injecting heroin disturb us deeply, but, at the same time, children fascinated by film projections of a kinetoscope almost give us the impression of being in a fairy tale. Michael Glawogger loves his protagonists. He loves each and every one of them. When he questions them about their dreams he is almost conveying to them – and to us – a fleeting hope. And in this important work of his, extreme realism, but also a kind of unexpected magic immediately become the main actors.

In Megacities there is no need for redundant captions. At the same time, the director is also invisible in front of the camera. Yet his gaze is evident. And already in this documentary we can recognise his unmistakable style. We find ourselves in 1998. From then on Glawogger would go on to make a long series of documentaries and feature films. Yet all the characteristics and themes of his filmography are already contained in this precious Megacities. The beginning of a long and unforgettable journey around the world that would surprise, touch and deeply move us.

Original title: Megacities
Directed by: Michael Glawogger
Country/year: Austria, Switzerland / 1998
Running time: 90’
Genre: documentary
Screenplay: Michael Glawogger
Cinematography: Wolfgang Thaler
Produced by: Fama Film AG, Lotus Film

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