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by Martha Mechow

grade: 8.5

Losing Faith, the extraordinary debut feature film by German director and performance artist Martha Mechow, is a true hymn to life, freedom, love, and being wonderfully women. At the Viennale 2023.

Wonderfully free

A pleasant surprise was premiered in Austria at the Viennale 2023. We are talking about Losing Faith, German director and performance artist Martha Mechow’s extraordinary debut feature film and a true hymn to life, freedom, love, and being wonderfully women. The making of Losing Faith, then, began several years ago, when the director was still twenty-two years old and about to graduate from the Filmakademie Wien. Over the years, thus, the film has taken its final form.

The story staged, then, is that of young Flippa (played by Selma Juana Schulte-Frohlinde), who lives in Germany and has not seen her older sister Furia (Ann Göbel) for many years. In order to meet her, therefore, she sets off for Sardinia, where Furia lives in a women-only commune in the middle of nature. Here each of them has organized her life perfectly, raising children, organizing village parties and even committing petty thefts. All this without the help of men. Will Flippa be able to finally break free from the constraints of heterosexuality and find her own place in the world?

Losing Faith, then, immediately strikes us with the highly surreal and completely unconventional touch adopted by Martha Mechow. Flippa and Fury’s mother is mysteriously sucked into the couch of her home, disappearing forever in order not to devote herself to her duties as a mother. And already this first scene immediately lets us know that what we are about to watch is a quite surprising film. A film in which really anything can happen and which, as the story progresses, gives us moments of absolute, pure beauty. Just like when we see, again in the opening of the feature, all the women who are part of Fury’s group, as they improvise a dance in the countryside and as they are being filmed, at the same time, by a small film crew.

Nature, summer, and freedom take us on a journey, during the screening of Losing Faith, into our own memories, thanks in part to images shot on film with particularly warm colors and wild dances during a village festival, which to the tune of Loredana Berté’s Non sono una Signora give the whole thing a timeless charm. Yet at the same time, particularly painful and delicate themes serve as leitmotifs throughout the entire feature. Themes such as the difficult relationship with one’s mothers and, more generally, with the mother figure understood both in a real and metaphorical sense thus find their own sublimation in the moment when we see one of the protagonists using a chainsaw to cut away the statue of the Holy Child from his mother’s arms.

Martha Mechow, for her part, has shown great talent and intelligence in making this precious Losing Faith. Skillfully avoiding all rhetoric without being afraid to try new paths and new ways of understanding mise-en-scène itself, the young director is undoubtedly one of the most promising names in contemporary Austrian (and world) cinema. And who knows what other beautiful surprises she will give us in the future.

Original title: Die ängstliche Verkehrsteilnehmerin
Directed by: Martha Mechow
Country/year: Austria, Germany / 2023
Running time: 100’
Genre: drama, experimental
Cast: Selma Juana Schulte-Frohlinde, Ann Göbel, Joseph Löcker, Inga Busch, Max Grosse Majench, Susanne Bredehöft, Yasmin El Yassini, Leonie Jenning, Nastasya Tikhnovetskaya, Alexandra Gottschlich, Sibylle Paetow-Spinosa, Laura Carmen Storz, Jan Koslowski, Luis August Krawen, Casper Kubeng, Martin Lindner, Maila Stahl, Pál Tóth, Margarita Broich, Marco Fontana, Sebastiano Nicolai
Screenplay: Martha Mechow
Cinematography: Nils Jakob Timm, Luis August Krawen
Produced by: Hans Broich, Superzoom Film

Info: the page of Losing Faith on iMDb; the page of Losing Faith on the website of the Viennale; the page of Losing Faith on the website of the sixpackfilm