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I’M OK

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by Elisabeth Hobbs

grade: 7

Taking direct inspiration from the paintings of Oskar Kokoschka, I’m Ok consists of many brushstrokes predominantly in shades of ochre, red and black and two-dimensional drawings with a distinctly expressionist character. The artist’s art and style are therefore the absolute protagonists, yet, at the same time, Elisabeth Hobbs has skilfully avoided any rhetoric, giving her short film its own, marked personality. At the festival Sotto le Stelle dell’Austria 2023.

Past returns

The great love of the famous Austrian painter Oskar Kokoschka (1886 – 1980) was undoubtedly Alma Mahler, widow of the renowned composer Gustav Mahler. Their relationship, however, was notoriously turbulent and, in some ways, marked the lives of both of them forever. Particularly appealing also in terms of a possible film adaptation, their romance has actually inspired several filmmakers. Just think of the feature film Alma & Oskar, directed by Dieter Berner, just to give one example. Or even of the animated short film I’m Ok, directed by British director Elisabeth Hobbs, which together with Berner’s feature film will open the festival Sotto le Stelle dell’Austria 2023 and which has already been presented at the Tricky Women/Tricky Realities Film Festival in Vienna.

After the end of his relationship with Alma Mahler, Oskar Kokoschka decided to enlist during World War I. At the front, unfortunately, he was wounded in the head. While being transported to hospital, the most important moments of his life (and specifically his relationship with Alma Mahler) came back to him in the form of hallucinations.

In I’m Ok, therefore, Elisabeth Hobbs focuses on this particular moment in Kokoschka’s life. Doctors run desperately to save the artist’s life. Death seems to be constantly lurking. In the meantime, however, Alma Mahler’s beautiful face makes Oskar’s dreams particularly colourful, vibrant and filled with a strong, very strong passion. And it is precisely this passion that the director has focused on. Through a whirlwind of mutant images that merge and mingle with one another and which, like many pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, give us a full understanding of the essence of a crucial period in Kokoschka’s life, she has fully rendered this heartbreaking feeling that influenced a large part of Oskar’s life.

Taking inspiration directly from the artist’s paintings, I’m Ok consists of many brushstrokes predominantly in shades of ochre, red and black and two-dimensional drawings with a distinctly expressionist character. The art and style of Oskar Kokoschka are therefore the absolute protagonists, yet at the same time Elisabeth Hobbs has skilfully avoided any rhetoric, giving her interesting I’m Ok its own, marked personality, thanks also to a good staging rhythm and the music by Christoph Willibald von Gluck.

I’m Ok and Alma & Oskar, therefore, are two works that are very different in style, but which enrich each other thanks to the different points of view (Kokoschka’s in the former, Alma Mahler’s in the latter) and which, together, give us a better insight into the genius of one of the most important Austrian (and world) artists of the last century. The love story with Alma Mahler has undoubtedly left its mark. Cinema knows this and this important chapter of history could never have gone unnoticed.

Original title: I’m Ok
Directed by: Elisabeth Hobbs
Country/year: Austria, UK, Canada / 2018
Running time: 6’
Genre: animation, biographical
Screenplay: Elisabeth Hobbs
Cinematography: Elisabeth Hobbs
Produced by: Elisabeth Hobbs

Info: the page of I’m Ok on iMDb