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MALINA

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by Werner Schroeter

grade: 7.5

Werner Schroeter has made Malina an incredibly topical feature film, attacking not only patriarchy, but also the entire society, which is so insidiously hypocritical. A stylistically sophisticated feature film that pays tribute to all the extraordinary women who worked on it. At the K3 Film Festival 2023, as a tribute to Libgart Schwarz and Ingeborg Bachmann.

A writer’s loves

What would happen if two personalities like Ingeborg Bachmann and Elfriede Jelinek met (virtually) to write something for the movie screen? Soon said. In 1973, Bachmann wrote Malina, her first novel, in which, through the story of a love triangle, far more delicate and topical issues were dealt with. Good. In 1991, Malina was made into a film, the screenplay of which was entrusted precisely to Elfriede Jelinek, while Werner Schroeter was in charge of the direction. And so, with the great Isabelle Huppert in the leading role, the aforementioned novel also found its own fulfilment on the movie screen and, after winning numerous international awards, was also presented during the last evening of the K3 Film Festival 2023, as a tribute to both Bachmann and the actress Libgart Schwarz, who was present during the screening.

The film’s protagonist, therefore, is a successful philosopher and writer (Huppert, precisely), whose name we do not know. The woman is constantly torn between the love of two men: Ivan (played by Can Togay), her impossible love who does nothing but leave whenever she needs him close, and Malina (Mathieu Carrière), a rather ambiguous and mysterious character who could even represent a sort of male alter ego of hers.

In staging the protagonist’s inner conflicts, therefore, Werner Schroeter opted for a rather complex and layered directorial approach. Everything develops, in fact, on several levels: the woman meets her two lovers. Everything seems to unfold in an (almost) linear way, inside her flat or in a café. Yet, as the staging goes on, we ourselves become ‘prisoners’ of the protagonist’s inner world, no longer knowing what is real and what, instead, is part of her fantasy. Dream and reality, as well as past and present, meet, merge and confuse over and over again. And, slowly, a clear and merciless portrait comes to life, not only of the world we live in, but also of the condition of women within an unscrupulous society.

The protagonist’s father (played by Fritz Schediwy) stands for something sadly topical and universal with his tyranny. Hundreds of letters written over the years and never sent seem never to reach their recipient. Fire can quickly erase everything (interestingly, Ingeborg Bachmann herself died in a fire, inside her house in Rome). Werner Schroeter has masterfully handled all these elements, making his Malina an incredibly topical feature film that attacks not only patriarchy, but also the entire society, so deviously hypocritical. A stylistically sophisticated feature film that pays tribute to all the extraordinary women who worked on it.

Original title: Malina
Directed by: Werner Schroeter
Country/year: Germany, Austria / 1991
Running time: 125’
Genre: drama
Cast: Isabelle Huppert, Mathieu Carrière, Can Togay, Lisa Kreuzer, Fritz Schediwy, Isolde Barth, Libgart Schwarz, Elisabeth Krejcir, Peter Kern, Jenny Drivala, Wiebke Frost, Lolita Chammah, David Philipp Kotai, David Salomonowitz, Andre Mueller, Kinskim Idl Graf, Gerhild Didusch, Sabine Schmeller, Bernd Stegemann, Haymon Maria Buttinger
Screenplay: Elfriede Jelinek, Patricia Moraz
Cinematography: Elfi Mikesch
Produced by: Kuchenreuther Filmproduktion, Neue Studio Film, ZDF

Info: the page of Malina on iMDb; the page of Malina on the website of the K3 Film Festival; the page of Malina on the website of the Austrian Film Commission