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by Edgar Honetschläger

grade: 8

With Midas, Edgar Honetschläger has made a completely original and surprising feature film, a feature film that one does not expect, which skilfully deals with universal themes while at the same time taking a completely personal form. At the Diagonale’23.

Myth and reality

A real gem within the programme of the Diagonale’23, Midas, the most recent work by director Edgar Honetschläger, the result of a co-production between Austria and Italy and presented for the occasion within the Innovatives Kino section. Yes, because, in fact, through the Myth of Phaeton, the director has given life to a profound reflection on mankind, on the world we live in, on the relationship between man and nature, and even on issues concerning integration between peoples and fake news. To fully understand the discourse, however, it is necessary to digress a little and review the aforementioned Myth of Phaeton.

Phaeton, then, was the son of Helios and wanted nothing more than to be able to drive his father’s chariot for a day. The moment he took the reins of the chariot, something terrible happened: having come too close to the Earth, he inadvertently burned it and, after moving away, froze certain areas of it. This gave rise to the various climate zones and even the various ethnic groups, with their characteristic skin colour. Immediately killed by Zeus, Phaeton subsequently fell into Eridanus and his sisters, the Eliads, turned into poplars while mourning him.

In Midas, therefore, this myth is told to us by a donkey, as an omniscient narrator and wise observer of the reality around us. He, however, within a narrative structure that is anything but linear, is not the only narrator within the feature film. Together with him, in fact, there are numerous characters (including a group of ants who constantly comment on human stupidity) who tell the story. In the background: evocative landscapes of the Lazio countryside that with their warm colours almost seem to recall a timeless dimension.

And it is precisely a refined aesthetic that is one of the most important peculiarities of Midas. Perfectly in line with what he wanted to stage, Honetschläger treated the landscapes as real protagonists and, together with a group of non-professional actors, made this important work of his resolutely harmonious in its studied discontinuity, magnetic in its depiction of mythological figures and talking animals, ruthlessly sincere in its juxtaposition of people from different nations and social classes (particularly clever and humorous, in this regard, is the scene in which we see a Tahitian maid recounting how the British colonised her island, while serving breakfast to a pair of rich Italian bourgeois, visibly annoyed by her presence).

With Midas, therefore, Edgar Honetschläger has made a completely original and surprising feature film, one that one does not expect, one that skilfully deals with universal themes while at the same time taking a completely personal form. As the sun sets, the donkey placidly watches over the countryside. Everything is calm. He seems to have understood better than anyone the meaning of life.

Original title: Le Formiche di Mida
Directed by: Edgar Honetschläger
Country/year: Austria, Italy / 2023
Running time: 75’
Genre: drama, experimental
Cast: Giancarlo Camurani, Ignazio Cancedda, Roberto Fia, Peppe Gnochetto, Lampino, Elena Mosconi, Giovanna Mosconi, Renato Mosconi, Alessandro Twombly, Anna Teresa Rossini
Screenplay: Edgar Honetschläger
Cinematography: Fabrizio Farroni
Produced by: Edoko Institute Film Production

Info: the page of Midas on the website of the Diagonale; the page of Midas on iMDb; the page of Midas on the website of Edgar Honetschläger