From the Fantastic Fest Burnt Ends collection comes a new film that is all at once unique and fascinating, as well as pique insanity. Which I suppose you can expect from a program that highlights “outlier and outsider media that intersect definitions of genre, avant-garde, and trash art, while shattering all traditional borders of taste and convention.”
From the bonkers mind of Johannes Grenzfurthner comes Razzennest. The setup is that we are watching the latest film from avant garde filmmaker Manus Oosthuizen (Michael Smulik) while he and several crew members conduct an interview and provide a commentary track with film critic Babette Cruickshank (Sophie Kathleen Kozeluh).
Manus’ film is an artsy examination of the 30 Years War, which wreaked havoc across Europe in the early 17th century. In reality, the film is an abstract series of images ranging from stark footage of bare trees in remote forests, to empty fields, shots of garbage, shots of Christian relics, and more. The footage itself doesn’t tell much of a story. Because Manus, in his own words, refuses “to show the thing that I want to address.” Yeah, he’s one of those directors.
Razzennest starts out as a simultaneous celebration and spearing of arthouse cinema culture. Ridiculous statements and auteur director shenanigans abound as the conversation devolves fairly quickly into arguments, random stories and the like. Babette tries desperately to not only keep the interview on track, but to get Manus to say something - anything - that sheds light on his creative process and doesn’t allow him to just make “genius statement” after “genius statement” without actually saying anything at all.
The audience gets hooked pretty early just from the bullshit factor on display from the “mad genius.” It’s really entertaining to listen to Manus and his full-on artistic persona go unchecked. The turn comes when people in the studio begin to mysteriously get sick. The contemplative nature of Manus’ film is upset when some of the more horrific elements leap offscreen and begin to inhabit the studio space and the people within it.
Sounds a little crazy, right? Now picture all of that with only the imagery from the film playing on screen, and everything else happening over the audio from the commentary track. The whole thing is like an obscure arthouse film had a baby with a radio play and it was all put together by a total madman. Though the imagery onscreen doesn’t really tell anything resembling a story, Grenzfurthner still utilizes it in a way that enhances the narrative. It goes from being part of a slow and wandering background to the conversation to being a more active part of the action. As the film progresses, Grenzfurther employs faster cuts that match the pacing and the content of the action going on in the audio portion.
The film is a little bit of everything - it’s genuinely thought-provoking, scary, a bit satirical and bitingly funny. It lovingly skewers art films and festivals while also adding something unique to the tapestry. And top to bottom, it’s hellishly entertaining. Definitely one to keep on your radar.
Movie Score: 4/5