elfriede-jelinek-die-sprache-von-der-leine-lassen-2022-muller-recensione

ELFRIEDE JELINEK – LANGUAGE UNLEASHED

This post is also available in: Italiano (Italian) Deutsch (German)

by Claudia Müller

grade: 8

Elfriede Jelinek – Language unleashed. Already from the subtitle of the documentary we can guess how Claudia Müller, in order to draw a faithful portrait of the author, started from the use of language that the latter made in all her works. A language free from all conventions, courageous and often surprising. Just like the directorial approach adopted by Müller in her film. At the Viennale 2022.

Playing with language

It is not easy to approach a figure like the charismatic and controversial writer – also winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature – Elfriede Jelinek. It is not easy, because if we think about how the author has played with language throughout her honourable career and how she has dealt – in a completely personal and courageous way – with some very topical and rather delicate issues, we immediately realise that we are dealing with an artist who is difficult to classify, an artist who, drawing from what was made in the past, has created her own style in a series of literary and theatrical works that have been spoken about all over the world, but which in Austria, in her own country, have often been strongly criticised. In her documentary Elfriede Jelinek – Language unleashed – which premiered in Austria on the occasion of the Viennale 2022 – filmmaker and journalist Claudia Müller has nevertheless attempted this impervious path, resulting in a work in which the very soul of Elfriede Jelinek’s work, as well as her extremely sensitive personality, is evident.

Elfriede Jelinek – Language unleashed. Already from the subtitle of the documentary we can guess how the director, in order to draw a faithful portrait of the author, started from the use of language that the latter made in all her works. A language free from all conventions, a courageous and often bewildering language. Just like the directorial approach adopted by Müller in her film. And, in fact, Claudia Müller has given this important work of hers – direct, sharp and often also strongly ironic – the only form that a documentary on Elfriede Jelinek could ever have.

In Elfriede Jelinek – Language unleashed we first see how through skilful editing the figure of the author of Mürzzuschlag comes to life on screen, although she is never actually present. What Claudia Müller mainly did was to meticulously and carefully research archive footage and old photographs in order to fully render the essence of Jelinek’s works, thanks also to excerpts read off-screen from time to time by actresses Sophie Rois, Stefanie Reinsperger, Sandra Hüller and Ilse Ritter. Excerpts from some of the author’s most significant works help to trace her long artistic path in an exhaustive way.

In Elfriede Jelinek – Language unleashed , the biographical references are few and essential and primarily aim to give us an understanding of how Jelinek began to write and what drove her to deal with certain topics over the years (such as her complicated relationship with her mother in Die Klavierspielerin or the regret that she never really explored her relationship with her father, who died prematurely in a psychiatric hospital). At the same time, while the off-screen voices read her texts, great attention is paid to the landscapes (most often shot from above in slow tracking shots). Landscapes in which Jelinek herself was born and lived and which she hated and loved at the same time.

While watching Elfriede Jelinek – Language unleashed, one almost has the impression of taking a rollercoaster ride. Especially at the opening of the documentary, in fact, we see a decidedly frenetic editing that takes us by the hand into a world by which we are immediately hypnotised. And this is also – and above all – thanks to the figure of Elfriede Jelinek, made so alive and pulsating on screen by Claudia Müller, to the point of seeming incredibly close to us, with her brilliant mind and incredible vulnerability.

Yes, vulnerability. Always suffering from panic attacks, Elfriede Jelinek retired to private life just after receiving the Nobel Prize in 2004, mainly because of the numerous controversies in Austria. In Austria, her native country, which she has always bitterly criticised because of a dangerous latent fascism that has never really died. And who knows whether, today, Austria has finally realised the importance of this author. At the end of the screening of Elfriede Jelinek – Language unleashed, however, the Viennale audience was quite enthusiastic.

Original title: Elfriede Jelinek – Die Sprache von der Leine lassen
Directed by: Claudia Müller
Country/year: Germany, Austria / 2022
Running time: 96’
Genre: documentary
Screenplay: Claudia Müller
Cinematography: Christine A. Maier
Produced by: CALA Filmproduktion, Plan C Filmproduktion

Info: the page of Elfriede Jelinek – Language unleashed on iMDb; the page of Elfriede Jelinek – Language unleashed on the website of the Österreichisches Filminstitut; the page of Elfriede Jelinek – Language unleashed on the website of the sixpackfilm