by Allan Fish
(Austria 2007 140m) DVD1/2
Love is like a red, red rose
p Lucki Stipetic, Ulrich Seidl d Ulrich Seidl w Ulrich Seidl, Veronika Franz ph Ed Lachman, Wolfgang Thaler ed Christof Schertenlieb art Andreas Donhauser, Renate Martin
Paul Hoffmann (Pauli), Ekateryna Rak (Olga), Michael Thomas (Michael), Maria Hofstätter (Sister Maria), Georg Friedrich (Pfleger Andi), Natalja Baranova (Olga’s friend in Ukraine), Natalie Epureanu (Olga’s friend in Vienna), Erich Finsches (Erich Schlager), Susanne Lothar (Pauli’s mother), Anastasia Sergeyeva (hotel prostitute),
If you thought Ken Loach was bleak, hang onto your hats. Ulrich Seidl’s film is one of the bleakest films you are ever likely to see, and surely one of the most important films to come out of the burgeoning Austrian film industry in the last decade. Essentially, it’s an old story, of east meets west andwest meets east. Yet it’s so much more than that.
Olga is an underpaid nurse in the Ukraine, a single mother who lives in a dingy apartment with her mother and her baby and can barely afford to eat. Despairing of her lack of income, she turns to a friend’s idea of internet porn, but finds she cannot do it and instead takes off for Austria for a better life, as domestic help to a middle-class family. She doesn’t keep that job for long, however, not through her own fault, and is soon joining the cleaning ranks of a local hospital, where she finds the patients treated no better than those back home.
Pauli is a young man of around 20, living with his mother and stepfather, and training to be a security guard. Humiliated by thugs, he decides to join his stepfather journeying through Eastern Europe selling old gumball machines. Journeying through Slovakia to Ukraine, he joins his stepfather in casual pick-ups in bars, winding up with a prostitute in a hotel room, who his stepfather degrades and treats like a dog while Pauli is told to watch on. Finally sick of this existence, he runs off and tries to hitch a lift away to who knows where. (more…)