Vienna, Winter. Johann, a guard at the grand Kunsthistorisches Art Museum encounters Anne, a foreign visitor called to Austria because of a medical emergency. Never having been to Austria and with little money, she wanders the city in limbo, taking the museum as her refuge. Johann, initially wary, offers help, and they’re drawn into each other’s worlds. Their meetings spark an unexpected series of explorations – of their own lives and the life of the city, and of the way artworks can reflect and shape daily experience.
The museum is seen in the film not as an archaic institution housing historical artifacts, but as an enigmatic crossroads in which, through the artworks, a discussion takes place across time with vital implications in the contemporary world. While the “conversations” embodied in the museum’s collection revolve around
nothing less than the matters that most concern us all: death, sex, history, theology, materialism, and so on; it’s through the regular lives of the guard and displaced visitor that these heady subjects are brought entirely down to earth and made manifest.
Near the film’s end, Johann and Anne are out exploring on the fringe of the city when her ill friend’s condition suddenly reaches a crisis point.
For some, the film will primarily be an engaging study of two adults whose relationship defies cinematic stereotypes; for others it will be a story-engendered portrait of the city of Vienna; for others, it will mostly serve as a meditation on the crossings between life and art and the museum as intermediary… All of these interpretations are valid and encouraged.
Certificate: 12A Distributor: Soda Pictures
Dir. Jem Cohen, Austria/US, 2012, 107 mins, some subtitles
Cast: Mary Margaret O’Hara, Bobby Sommer, Ela Piplits