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HACKING AT LEAVES

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by Johannes Grenzfurthner

grade: 7.5

Hacking at Leaves is a veritable visual and auditory experience that, through a staging in which paradoxical and often highly hilarious moments often take centre stage, reveals itself to be much more complex and layered than it might initially seem. At the Diagonale 2024.

Past and present

The history of the United States of America told in the way none of us expects. And, after all, the moment we set out to watch a film by Johannes Grenzfurthner, none of us really knows what to expect. Yes, because, in fact, the eclectic and courageous Austrian director has never been afraid to play with all the possibilities that the seventh art has to offer us or to experiment with new cinematic languages, in order to stage stories that are indeed bizarre but also extremely topical. The same applies to Hacking at Leaves, his most recent work, which had its world premiere as part of the Diagonale 2024 programme.

As already mentioned, therefore, in Hacking at Leaves we are presented with the history of the United States of America through an entirely unique perspective. Johannes Grenzfurthner himself – dressed in a yellow suit – connects via a monitor with a mysterious ‘Uncle Sam’. Recent history is about to come to life on the movie screen through a decidedly unconventional staging. Skilful editing gives the whole thing a frenetic pace. Interviews, documents, recent footage and old photographs take us by the hand on a journey that starts in the days of American colonialism, then arrives at the present day and even the recent pandemic.

Colonialism. The notorious power – and arrogance – of the American people. The living conditions of Native Americans. With such a past, it is not surprising that, in recent times, someone like Donald Trump has become president. And so, immediately, in Hacking at Leaves, American history becomes universal history. And we too, in one way or another, immediately feel involved, almost (indirectly) responsible, with our often too ‘naive’ behaviour.

Hacking at Leaves, then, like any other work by Johannes Grenzfurthner, is to all intents and purposes the film one does not expect. A true visual and auditory experience that, through a mise-en-scène in which paradoxical and often highly hilarious moments often take centre stage, reveals itself to be much more complex and layered than it might initially seem. Just as happened with the feature films Masking Threshold (2021) and Razzennest (2022), just to give a few examples. Johannes Grenzfurthner knows exactly what he wants to communicate to the viewer, and he does so by exploiting the full potential of cinema itself, giving his films a different and unique form each time. Fiction and documentary thus create in this unique and precious Hacking at Leaves a magnetic harmony.

Original title: Hacking at Leaves
Directed by: Johannes Grenzfurthner
Country/year: Austria / 2024
Running time: 108’
Genre: documentary
Screenplay: Johannes Grenzfurthner
Cinematography: Florian Hofer, Daniel Hyde, Günther Friesinger
Produced by: monochrom OG

Info: the page of Hacking at Leaves on iMDb; the page of Hacking at Leaves on the website of the Diagonale