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LIVING IN A BOX

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This post is also available in: Italiano (Italian) Deutsch (German)

by Jörg Kalt

grade: 7

Director Jörg Kalt listens attentively to the protagonists without ever judging, but immediately becoming their precious confidant. His Living in a Box tells us about each one of them, about the many balances within tiny rooms that, in turn, can often turn out to be little corners of happiness.

Many stories in New York

What is freedom? What does it really mean to be free? And, above all, what does one have to give up in order to be finally really free? Paradoxically, you can sometimes find freedom even in a small hotel room, where twenty or so square metres are all you really need. Martin, Thomas, Irving and Mary, the protagonists of the documentary Living in a Box, directed by the late Jörg Kalt in 2000, know something about this, and they seem to have finally found their balance in a very singular reality.

In cosmopolitan New York City, there is a small hotel, Hotel 17, where some people have decided to stay and live forever. Martin, Thomas, Irving and Mary are some of them, and as they recount their past and present before Jörg Kalt’s camera, they seem decidedly satisfied with their choice.

In this sense, therefore, Living in a Box makes use first and foremost of an extremely simple and linear directorial approach. Only a few, sporadic shots show us the hotel from the outside. It looks almost like a spooky building, guardian of the most unthinkable secrets. Jörg Kalt has skilfully avoided all virtuosity and ‘special effects’, but, by playing with the appeal of the stories told and with the atmosphere and feelings that such a place can arouse, he has given this precious little documentary of his a sophisticated noir character.

In Living in a Box, the empty hallways of Hotel 17 almost remind us of those in Stanley Kubrick’s now cult film The Shining (1980). Yet, being particularly dark and narrow, they also make us think of many expressionist films. In overlay, as transparent figures that would almost seem to be part of a parallel dimension, some people walk along these hallways or are about to ascend or descend the hotel stairs. No one seems to give such details any importance, yet they well represent the passage of time, the story of a place that, in turn, has witnessed many and many other stories. Stories of people passing through or who, like our protagonists, decided to spend their entire lives in those small rooms, happy to have finally given up any material goods.

Not all the protagonists of Living in a Box are happy to tell their stories before the camera. There are also those who don’t want to be filmed and prefer to let the viewer just hear their voice. And, again, while there are those who, despite a big family, are happy to live their lives there, with no constraints whatsoever, there are also those who have no choice, being practically alone in the world. Jörg Kalt listens attentively to each of the protagonists without ever judging, but immediately becoming their precious confidant. His Living in a Box tells us about each of them, about the many balances within tiny rooms that, in turn, can often turn out to be little corners of happiness.

Original title: Living in a Box
Directed by: Jörg Kalt
Country/year: Austria / 2000
Running time: 28’
Genre: documentary
Screenplay: Jörg Kalt
Cinematography: Eva Testor
Produced by: Jörg Kalt

Info: the page of Living in a Box on the website of the sixpackfilm