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COPY SHOP

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by Virgil Widrich

grade: 8

Copy Shop is present and future. The loss of identity and subjectivity due to modern media. Copy Shop is the loss of all certainty, in a world where we no longer know what is true and what is not.

Certified copy

One of the most famous and emblematic works by the renowned filmmaker Virgil Widrich. A surreal, experimental and highly political film. An allegory of what the contemporary world is becoming because of media, which want us all to be the same. We are talking about Copy Shop, made in 2001 and nominated for an Oscar for Best Short Film in 2002, which, with a welcome touch of humour, stages the very world in which we live.

A man (played by Johannes Silberschneider) wakes up in his bed. Everything seems normal. The man gets out of bed, looks at himself in the mirror in the bathroom and leaves the house. After glancing at the beautiful flower girl who works in front of his house, he crosses the street and enters the copy shop where he works. He accidentally makes a photocopy of his hand. The photocopier seems to have gone mad and continues to photocopy images of the man just waking up in his house. Unplugged, however, everything seems to return to normal. At least until the next day, when an exact copy of the protagonist appears in his house, goes out with him and enters the copy shop. Gradually the clones of the man become more and more. The situation seems totally out of control.

Copy Shop, then, is both present and future. The loss of identity and subjectivity due to modern media. Copy Shop is the loss of all certainty, in a world where we no longer know what is true and what is not. Shot entirely on 35mm film and subsequently edited using the stop-motion technique, this important film by Virgil Widrich recalls the language of silent cinema, not only for the absence of dialogue and the rudimentary black and white chosen, but also – and above all – for important references to film history, from Charlie Chaplin (it is impossible not to think of the beautiful City Lights, when we see the pretty flower girl in front of the protagonist’s house, or of Modern Times, when we see him dealing with the copy machine gone mad) to Jacques Tati, without forgetting the legendary Harold Lloyd.

Virgil Widrich, for his part, has made an extremely original work with a marked personality. His aim is to tell the story of the contemporary world through film history, which has often played a central role in his films (just think, for instance, of the short film Fast Film – made in 2003 and in which famous clips from the most important detective and thriller films of the past were brought to life in a new, adrenalin-fuelled film – or Make/Real, directed in 2010 and in which science fiction films of the past played a central role).

In Copy Shop, however, we find no archive footage. Everything was filmed directly by Virgil Widrich’s (and cinematographer Martin Putz’s) camera, yet film history becomes an essential element in the depiction of the present. The images repeat themselves in an almost mechanical way. The shots sometimes take on the appearance of a sheet of paper moved by the wind. The objective suddenly becomes subjective and every certainty is totally upset. Will there ever be a chance of salvation?

Original title: Copy Shop
Directed by: Virgil Widrich
Country/year: Austria / 2001
Running time: 12’
Genre: surreal, experimental, grotesque
Cast: Johannes Silberschneider, Elisabeth Ebner-Haid
Screenplay: Virgil Widrich
Cinematography: Martin Putz
Produced by: Virgil Widrich Filmproduktion

Info: the page of Copy Shop on iMDb; the page of Copy Shop on the website of Virgil Widrich; the page of Copy Shop on the website of the sixpackfilm