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VISITING JOHANNA

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by Martin Weiss

grade: 7

Visiting Johanna is a tender and delicate story, a story that could concern any of us and that through genuine simplicity finds its fulfilment on the movie screen. At the K3 Film Festival 2023.

Unexpected twists

Two sisters who have not seen each other for a long time. An artistic performance that will probably not be appreciated by anyone. Contemporary art, as we know, is not always properly understood. A disastrous evening that can, however, have unexpectedly pleasant turns. All this was staged by the Carinthian director Martin Weiss in his short film Visiting Johanna, which had its Carinthian premiere in competition at the K3 Film Festival 2023.

In Visiting Johanna, therefore, the story of Julia (played by actress and cabaret artist Elena Wolff) is staged. She decides to pay a surprise visit to her sister Johanna (Thea Ehre, winner of the Silver Bear for Best Supporting Actress at the Berlinale 2023 for Christoph Hochhäusler’s Bis ans Ende der Nacht ). Johanna is an artist who has organised an evening where she will perform. She has invited some of her friends and acquaintances and a small concert is also planned after the show. Hardly anyone, however, seems to have enjoyed her performance. The evening promises to be a disaster. But what if this is the right opportunity for the sisters to finally reconnect?

Almost bare rooms, an artistic performance that conveys a strong sense of unease from the beginning, cold lighting and, initially, no music. Julia is at unease, but not because of the performance she is witnessing. No. What worries her is, in fact, the very encounter with her sister. In Visiting Johanna, therefore, Martin Weiss has succeeded in staging all this by opting for a decidedly simple and straightforward directorial approach, which, however, proved to be the right solution in order to devote maximum attention precisely to the two magnetic protagonists.

The facial expressions of Elena Wolff and Thea Ehre are worth a thousand words. The director’s camera focuses on them, making us immediately feel part of that alienating world and even giving us the impression that we have known the two women forever. Visiting Johanna is a tender and delicate story, a story that could concern any of us and that through genuine simplicity finds its proper fulfilment on the movie screen. Human feelings come first. The director knows this well.

And so, in just eleven minutes, we witness a deep and never banal analysis of human and family relationships within a context in which it is often very easy to feel uncomfortable. Contemporary art, as we know, is often complicated to understand and appreciate. Human relationships, however, can be even more so, but when one finally manages to find common ground, they can make us feel very, very good. Just like a liberating dance in an almost empty club.

Original title: Zu Besuch
Directed by: Martin Weiss
Country/year: Austria / 2023
Running time: 11’
Genre: drama
Cast: Thea Ehre, Elena Wolff, Tilman Tuppy, Aurelio Ghirardelli, Sven Langkabel
Screenplay: Martin Weiss
Cinematography: Xavier Pawlowski
Produced by: Lidija-Rukiye Kumpas, Boris Mijatovic

Info: the page of Visiting Johanna on the website of the K3 Film Festival 2023; the page of Visiting Johanna on the website of the Filmakademie Wien