SCREEN DIARY: HAGAZUSSA at Austrian Cultural Forum (21 FEB 2019)

One of the joys of sticking to your local purveyor of moving pictures is that you rarely get lost on the way. The downside is that, unless you live next to the most adventurous of screens, you will miss out on a lot. Having an insatiable appetite, we like to travel. Which sometimes means…

HORROR SEASON: HAGAZUSSA at Austrian Cultural Forum (21 FEB).
HORROR SEASON: HAGAZUSSA at Austrian Cultural Forum (21 FEB).

By RADIANT CIRCUS

Twitter @radiantcircus | Instagram @radiantcircus

Finding our way across London in a rush and in the dark, RADIANT CIRCUS got lost…. On this occasion, we should have trusted our guidance app rather than our own eyes. Navigating from Kensington tube to Rutland Gate (our final destination), we walked past the correct access point on three occasions, believing the gap in the wall we were being directed through to be someone’s driveway – it’s that part of London after all! – rather than an enabling mews.

This means we missed the welcome intro which is a shame because meeting the people who project for London is always a major treat. We might also have missed the start of the film, but it’s hard to know these days… We arrived to see titles on the screen after we’d been led up the back stairs and in through the rear entrance (and yes, we intend all of those dubious entendres because the postcode feels rather well-behaved even if we’re not).

The reason for our visit was to attend our first screening at the Austrian Cultural Forum’s regular Cine Club. We also wanted to track down one of London’s many free film events in foreign embassies and cultural centres (which will be the basis of a new SCREEN GUIDE we’re working on…). The Cultural Forum’s screening room comes complete with an impressive chandelier, wall-to-wall screen, detailed surround sound and a grand piano that presumably gets played for their numerous silent film events.

HORROR SEASON: HAGAZUSSA at Austrian Cultural Forum (21 FEB).
HORROR SEASON: HAGAZUSSA at Austrian Cultural Forum (21 FEB).

HAGAZUSSA (d. Lukas Feigelfeld, 2017) continued the venue’s yearlong focus on genre cinema. It feels like a folk-horror ERASERHEAD, complete with nauseating body fluids, a troublesome baby, visceral alienation and a surreal nerve-shredding soundscape by MMD. Set in the Dark Ages, it starts with the young Albrun (Celina Peter) and her mother (Claudia Martini) who live in a remote mountain cabin, ostracised from the locals. After her mother becomes ill and dies, the film leaps forward a couple of decades, finding Albrun (Aleksandra Cwen) suffering from what might be an overwhelming psychosis or something much more malignant… Given that this is part of a HORROR season, it gives nothing away to say things don’t end well…

Despite a strong central thesis, Feigelfeld’s debut somewhat struggles to find a unifying shape for the horror: everything just gets wet, weird and a little too crunchy, like that rookie moment at a Chinese banquet when you realise ordering the cartilaginous pigs’ ears might have been a tad cavalier… Similarly, the widescreen cinematography occasionally exposes the film’s crowd-funded low budget, giving some sequences the inauthentic air of a rather tired heritage attraction.

However, the film’s insistence on keeping plot to the fringes and projecting poetic nightmares amidst a stark wilderness that wraps itself claustrophobically around Albrun and her new baby, builds considerable tension. There are moments of beauty too as Feigelfeld and cinematographer Mariel Baqueiro frame the women’s increasingly haunted faces against snow, moss and grass. Towards the end of the film, Albrun’s transformative baptism in a forest lake choked by algae segues into an experimental explosion of underwater mutation. The brave cast looks suitably haggard as they are put through the horror-movie ringer: nudity, screaming, vomiting and the exhausting portrayal of mental collapse (which is surely the basis of their characters’ persecution as witches).

Any Alpine film that ends with an attempted escape through the mountains flirts with disaster, but here the final sequence suitably sears in the mystery. We might have arrived late, but the adventure paid off.

And that’s the meat of it…

AUSTRIAN CULTURAL FORUM

HORROR SEASON: ATTACK OF THE LEDERHOSEN ZOMBIES at Austrian Cultural Forum (05 MAR).
HORROR SEASON: ATTACK OF THE LEDERHOSEN ZOMBIES at Austrian Cultural Forum (05 MAR).

ACF Cine Club’s HORROR season continues with:

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*THE SMALL PRINT: As accurate as we could make it. Apologies for any errors. Updates & corrections will be made to the online version. Event dates/times are subject to change by the venue/organiser. We try to only list events you can book for at the time of posting: however, some events may still be sold out. Please click quickly! We don’t filter by age/certification: all readers & subscribers should be 18+.

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