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by Bianca Gleissinger

grade: 7

27 Storeys immediately turns out to be an extremely intimate and personal, documentary, but also objective enough for a clear observation of the reality shown to us. The viewer has complete freedom to draw his or her own conclusions. At the Diagonale’23.

Reality or utopia?

Wohnpark Alterlaa, in Vienna’s 23rd district, is a reality that seems almost suspended in time. A sometimes alienating, but undoubtedly fascinating reality. A reality created in the 1970s and planned by architect Harry Glück in order to allow a large number of citizens a comfortable life in a large residential park well connected to the city centre. This is the reality, then, in which filmmaker Bianca Gleissinger lived as a child and to which she returned as an adult in order to make her documentary 27 Storeys, presented as part of the programme of the Diagonale’23.

In 27 Storeys, we learn more about Wohnpark Alterlaa. Some of the inhabitants proudly show us their flats, tell us about their past, tell us about their hobbies. On the roof of one of the residential blocks (many of them twenty-seven storeys high) people can relax by the swimming pool. And while it is always a pleasure to enjoy a sunny day in the park surrounding the area, for spare time there are always various leisure centres, where one can pursue one’s interests and take part in different activities, and even a shopping centre.

Bianca Gleissinger takes us by the hand through this singular reality, which she observes both with a critical gaze and with a certain nostalgia, since she herself had to move out of there following the divorce of her parents. A dynamic and sparkling direction – together with a predominantly classical approach and narrative structure – turned out to be the right solution not only to show us closely the life within the aforementioned residential complex, but also to give the whole thing a personal touch, given the first-person involvement of the director herself.

In 27 Storeys the filmmaker often appears in front of the camera (masterfully directed by Klemens Koscher, who won the Award for the Best Cinematography in a Documentary at the Diagonale’23), confides in the audience, occasionally showing us footage from her childhood and moments of family conviviality, and lets the locals themselves tell their stories. Bright colours take centre stage when we see some people relaxing at the swimming pool or when Bianca Gleissinger herself improvises a kind of dance. Colours that are often reminiscent of the 1970s, and which soon turn into blurred photographs of bygone days.

27 Storeys, therefore, immediately proves to be an extremely intimate and personal documentary, but also objective enough for a clear observation of the reality shown to us. Has architect Harry Glück succeeded in his intentions? Is it really, the Wohnpark Alterlaa, a kind of ‘earthly paradise’ where (apparently) nothing else is needed to be happy? The viewer is free to draw his or her own conclusions, and this important work by Bianca Gleissinger offers plenty of food for thought.

Original title: 27 Storeys
Directed by: Bianca Gleissinger
Country/year: Austria, Germany / 2023
Running time: 82’
Genre: documentary
Screenplay: Bianca Gleissinger
Cinematography: Klemens Koscher
Produced by: Mischief Films, Egoli Tossell Films, DFFB, ZDF

Info: the page of 27 storeys on the website of the Diagonale; the page of 27 Storeys on iMDb; the page of 27 Storeys on the website of the Austrian Film Commission