HOME IS HERE at Black Nights Tallinn

Here’s my review of the Austrian entry in the Tallinn Black Nights first feature film competition. I was pleasantly surprised to find an Innsbruck film in the programme of course, but that’s not the reason I liked it.
First published on Nisimazine & slightly edited on CinEuropa.


Home is Here

by Tereza Kotyk

 

Film history sometimes holds hidden ironies. In the Austrian director Tereza Kotyk’s debut feature film Home is here, actor Stipe Erceg plays a rich businessman who discovers someone was in his house. Twelve years ago, he played the intruder messing up rich people’s homes in The Edukators (Die Fetten Jahre sind vorbei). And in contrast to the modern Austrian anarchist classic, Kotyk has created a minimalistic, subtle film about two lost souls.

20-something Hannah (Anna Aström) has returned to her hometown of Innsbruck to live with her mother and little brother, whom she takes to school every day. We never find out what – if anything specific – has happened to her, but she is clearly trying to come to terms with her past, writing poetic lines on post-it notes. Max (Erceg), on the other hand, is a taciturn business executive, living in the strangely impersonal modernist villa. He goes to work every day and for a run or bike ride in the nature around Innsbruck with a friend. While Max is at work, Hannah enters his house, hesitantly at first, and she comes back every day, leaving signs of her presence. She turns up the heating, eats his expensive pralines, turns glasses upside-down, and looks at his private photo box of stored-away memories of his former lover, a famous photographer. Max seems intrigued by the intruder into the calculated order of his glass-and-steel home, who eventually leaves him a note saying “(I) have no fear”.

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It is an unusual bond that these two loners form through Hannah’s messages. Although Aström is Swedish, Hannah is clearly an alter ego of the director, not only because of their Czech heritage. The visual style of the film follows the poetic sensibility of its protagonist. The camera often lingers on the textures of the home, the images of DoP Astrid Heubrandtner evoking the synthetic feel of the surfaces, and showing Hannah smell and feel her surrounding as much as seeing it. A strong support for transmitting the characters’ sensitivities comes from the accentuated, melodic piano music by the Czech Oscar-winning composer Markéta Irglová.

The universal and complex theme of home is taken quite literally, and fortunately not expanded on in the dialogue in any unnecessary philosophical terms. Throughout the film the characters seem to be on an emotional search for the feeling of homecoming and, in the end, they might have even found it. There the characters’ movements are repeated over and over, establishing the daily routines and the slow progression of their relation.

With the bare skeleton of a plot, Kotyk manages to uphold a thin layer of suspense throughout the film, although the unresolved backstory mysteries of the two characters leave a viewer frustrated. The beautiful serendipity of the encounter contains a similar kind of playful melancholy to that of Charlotte and Bob in Lost in Translation. And even though the curious premise of the story could have lead into a much bigger film, as a first feature it shows quite a distinctive handwriting. It stays with you and makes you wish for a happy future for these two characters – and the director’s next film. ■

„Home is Here“ is a KGP Kranzelbinder Gabriele Production.

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