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by Michael Kreihsl

grade: 7.5

Anything is possible in Charms Incidents. The series of events seems to follow no logic and what results are numerous highly Kafkaesque paradoxical situations.

Inexplicable events

It was the year 1996 when the now acclaimed director Michael Kreihsl finally made his first feature film. A particularly interesting and courageous debut. With this work, in fact, the filmmaker was freely inspired by the short life of the Russian poet Daniil Charms (1905 – 1942), giving his film a pleasantly surreal character and a welcome black humour. This is how the feature film Charms Incidents came to life: a series of short, interconnected stories that develop mainly around one main character.

Writer Daniil Juvacev (played by excellent Johannes Silberschneider) lives alone in a large apartment building. He is constantly in need of money and has no luck with women. His neighbours constantly break into his house and the wife of one of them even tries to seduce him, causing quite a few consequences. At the same time, a bizarre teacher constantly talks about abstruse topics, mysterious musicians almost reminiscent of a Federico Fellini film appear out of the blue and a man steals and sells butter to himself.

Anything is possible in Charms Incidents. The series of events does not seem to follow any logic and what results are numerous highly Kafkaesque paradoxical situations. Right from the start, the protagonist seems decidedly confused and, just like him, the viewer too initially struggles to understand what is happening. Yet it is precisely this feeling of bewilderment that the director wanted to immediately convey.

We are in 1940s Russia. World War II has changed people’s lives forever and nothing seems to make sense any more. What better occasion, then, to give the whole film a strongly surreal touch? During concerts, people fall asleep, inexplicably small hammers come out of characters’ mouths, Daniil Juvacev manages perfectly to predict the actions of a neighbour of his who is putting on make-up before meeting her lover. What happens both amuses and bewilders and, at the same time, perfectly conveys the idea of a specific historical period, thanks also to precisely reconstructed settings and a predominantly gloomy light that contributes to a strange sense of claustrophobia.

Charms Incidents turned out to be a courageous, disorienting, wonderfully crazy and also rather risky film, given the high probability of getting lost when dealing with a feature film of this kind. A feature film from which one never knows what to expect, which sets out a clear thesis, but does so in a completely unconventional way. Michael Kreihsl immediately proved to be a particularly noteworthy filmmaker, and even though he has not always made perfect or equally important works over the years, he has nevertheless established himself as a filmmaker perfectly capable of relating to any film genre. And thanks to his astonishing debut, he has finally made a name for himself within the already rich and varied Austrian film scene.

Original title: Charms Zwischenfälle
Directed by: Michael Kreihsl
Country/year: Austria / 1996
Running time: 85’
Genre: surreal, grotesque, comedy
Cast: Johannes Silberschneider, Wolfgang Hübsch, Ela Piplits, Elzbieta Czyzewska, Ulrich Tukur, Roswitha Soukup, Justus Neumann, Karl Ferdinand Kratzl, Johann Adam Oest, Barbara de Koy, Michael Haneke, Markus Hering
Screenplay: Michael Kreihsl, Daniil Charms
Cinematography: Oliver Bokelberg
Produced by: Wega Film

Info: the page of Charms Incidents on the website of Michael Kreihsl; the page of Charms Incidents on iMDb