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by Nikolaus Geyrhalter

grade: 9

With Matter out of Place, as usual in Nikolaus Geyrhalter’s films, we are confronted with something impressive, something magnetically wonderful. With something that, however, with its images studied down to the smallest detail, gives us a closer look at a problem that is more urgent than ever. At the Viennale 2022.

Save our planet!

One cannot imagine watching a Nikolaus Geyrhalter documentary through any medium other than on a cinema screen. Yes, because, in fact, if there is an adjective that connects all his works – from his beginnings to the present day – it is – without fear of any exaggeration – ‘majestic’. Majestic, in fact, are documentaries such as Washed Ashore (1994), Homo Sapiens (2016) or Earth (2019), just to give a few examples. And equally majestic is Matter out of Place, his newest work, which had its world premiere at the 2022 Locarno Film Festival and its Austrian premiere at the Viennale 2022.

With Matter out of Place, therefore, as often happens in the works of the Viennese director, we are faced with something impressive, something magnetically marvellous. With something that, however, with its images studied down to the smallest detail, makes us familiar with a problem that is more urgent than ever. A problem that concerns the whole mankind and that exists precisely because of mankind: the problem of waste that, in ever-increasing quantities, threatens our planet and our very health.

A river flows between two mountains in Switzerland. The surface of the water is almost perfect in its compactness. Yet we soon discover that something is wrong. And this happens the moment we are shown the next shot, in which the said mountains are shown to us from a different perspective. On a small bank at their foot, in fact, we see a huge expanse of rubbish. This is completely unnatural, if one thinks of the beauty that nature has offered us and that Geyrhalter’s camera initially filmed. But that is not all. Through a long journey from Switzerland to Albania, Nepal, the Maldives, Austria and the United States, the director shows us all the attempts (many of which, unfortunately, vain) to dispose of this waste, both by volunteers and by actual incinerators (as happens, for example, in Austria).

In Matter out of Place, however, we immediately notice an extremely realistic and disillusioned attitude, as if every attempt to save our planet were completely vain and as if the rubbish, in reality, was destined never to disappear. Silences prevail over dialogue in Matter out of Place. Long shots almost hypnotise us while showing us rubbish that seems to want to “rebel” the moment it is shredded. Similarly, breathtaking landscapes, true natural paradises, are immediately “contaminated” by shots that mercilessly show us how rubbish has now become part of them. The whole thing, at times, almost takes on abstract connotations. Almost dreamlike connotations, as happens before a concert in the middle of the desert in Nevada, when some musicians immediately bring to mind the cinema of Federico Fellini.

With a strongly contemplative approach – typical of his cinema – Nikolaus Geyrhalter has given us another important chapter of contemporary history concerning the close relationship between man and environment. And, once again, we can see how the former has never learnt to respect the world in which he lives. A world that suffers more and more, that desperately cries out for help. And in Matter out of Place this cry for help, with its long and numerous silences, becomes even more deafening.

Original title: Matter out of Place
Directed by: Nikolaus Geyrhalter
Country/year: Austria / 2022
Running time: 105’
Genre: documentary
Screenplay: Nikolaus Geyrhalter
Cinematography: Nikolaus Geyrhalter
Produced by: Nikolaus Geyrhalter Filmproduktion

Info: the page of Matter out of Place on the website of the Viennale; the page of Matter out of Place on iMDb; the page of Matter out of Place on the website of the Nikolaus Geyrhalter Filmproduktion