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by Adrian Goiginger

grade: 5.5

Despite an interesting story and distinctly clever insights, Above the World stands out for certain stylistic and narrative choices that caused it to lose personality. At the Diagonale’22.

A new life

What is the meaning of life? What do we really want? And, above all, what does freedom mean? These are questions that have been asked many, many times over the years, whether in film, literature or any other form of artistic expression. Questions to which, however, one can hardly find an answer. Yet, Elias – first played by Jakob Mader, then by Johannes Krisch – seems to have finally found his own fulfilment after many years of depression. His story is therefore told by young director Adrian Goiginger in his second feature film, Above the World, based on the play of the same name by Felix Mitterer and presented as part of the programme of the Diagonale’22.

Elias, then, is the son of farmers and seems destined to pursue the same profession as his parents in the future, even though his greatest passion is literature. The boy often feels misunderstood, but will finally find the courage to speak his mind and make certain choices after meeting Moid (Verena Altenberger), a young divorced woman with whom Elias will fall in love at first sight. Will this, however, be his destiny? Probably, true happiness can only be found in a remote mountain cabin, far away from everything and everyone.

Above the World, then, is a story of rebirth, a story in which a return to nature seems the only possible solution. Alpine landscapes and huge expanses of green become Elias’s best friends and are at the same time treated as further protagonists. Adrian Goiginger, for his part, has made a feature film full of symbolism and spirituality, a feature film whose meaning clearly focuses on the essential and which presents itself first and foremost as a true hymn to freedom.

Such premises undoubtedly suggest an impeccable, exciting, although not particularly original work. Yet, unfortunately, Above the World also stands out for certain stylistic and narrative choices that made it lose personality. A TV-like mise-en-scène (despite the great potential the story itself offered), features mysterious apparitions of characters from the past as one of the most clumsy solutions in the entire feature film. Moreover, a screenplay lacking a necessary crescendo ends up being dangerously banal.

Adrian Goiginger, unfortunately, failed to hit the mark this time. Despite an undoubtedly interesting story. Despite excellent performances by the cast. Above the World, unfortunately, turned out to be an easily forgettable film and inevitably makes one think back with nostalgia to The Best of all Worlds, Goiginger’s debut feature. Who knows, maybe in the future the director will give us some more nice surprises. Only time, however, will give us an answer.

Original title: Märzengrund
Directed by: Adrian Goiginger
Country/year: Austria / 2021
Running time: 110’
Genere: drama, coming-of-age
Cast: Jakob Mader, Johannes Krisch, Harald Windisch, Gerti Drassl, Verena Altenberger, Annalena Hochgruber
Screenplay: Adrian Goiginger, Felix Mitterer
Cinematography: Klemens Hufnagl, Paul Sprinz
Produced by: Metafilm GmbH, WHee Film, it-media

Info; the page of Above the World on the website of the Diagonale; the page of Above the World on iMDb; the page of Above the World on the website of the Austrian Film Commission