Sunday, September 09, 2007

Silent Resident

Set in a futuristic high-rise complex called Neustadt (i.e. New City), Silent Resident follows Hannah (Brigitte Hobmeier), who works for the city government. Seeking to escape from her abusive husband Branco (Xaver Hutter), Hannah manages to secure an apartment on another floor with the help of her friend and co-worker Paula. But Hannah's new apartment, recently vacated because of the suicide of the previous tenant, Yoon, seems haunted by voices and strange visions.

Hannah soon comes to believe that she's become embroiled in some sort of larger conspiracy that includes her lover Hauks (Martin Wuttke), who works for the security service. But is Hannah seeing the truth, or is it all nothing more than an elaborate fantasy sprung forth from her fragile emotional state?

Silent Resident is a difficult film to describe. Neustadt is a seemingly Utopian environment, but the complex is being eaten away from the inside by class struggle, and being pressured from the outside by a vaguely defined declining of civilization outside its walls. Similarly, Hannah is seemingly being used by various people for their own ends, while internally, her own mind becomes more and more consumed by paranoia and fear and hallucinations. The film can be at times very surreal, further blurring the lines between Hannah's own sanity and insanity.

The soundtrack was very jazzy, giving the film a bit of a noir feel at times, but I felt there were times when the music went a bit over the top and overwhelmed the scene.

The film provides an interesting vision, but one that will probably appeal to a very select audience.

Director Christian Frosch was in attendance, and did a Q&A after the film:

  • It took eight years, on and off, to get the film made, mainly because of the difficulty in obtaining financing (one of the first companies to finance in the early years went bankrupt - not because of this film, though).
  • Depsite the long timeframe, he still largely ended up with the cast he wanted. The lead actress he found her one year before shooting; the other parts were written for the actors, as he likes being with people he's worked with before.
  • The print was only completed two days before the festival, so this was the first time Frosch had seen the complete version in a theatre. At the screening, he was more interested in hearing and listening to how the audience reacted to the film; where they laughed, what noises they made, etc.
  • Frosch feels that what is on screen is what he wanted, i.e. he didn't have to compromise his original vision.
  • Growing up in Vienna, Frosch was familiar with the Alt-Erlaa complex in Austria, which was a bit of a social experiment in the late 70's/early 80's. He thought about the building when writing the script, but thought that he did not want to shoot there. He looked at a number of other locations, but came back to it in the end.
  • He liked being able to use Alt-Erlaa to show the complex being a bit out-of-time, to show the futurism of the past.
  • He made use of some computer-generated effects to make the complex look a little more impressive in the film.
  • Frosch answered "yes and no" when asked if he some of the ideas or commentary he was trying to communicate in the film were based on that social housing. It is supposed to be more of a metaphor. In the film, you never really get out of the complex or see what kind of system it is. There is no outside anymore; it is like the last isle of what we call 21st century civilization.
  • The reality of the location was inspiration for a lot of details; when dealing with metaphor, it is important that it also has life, so it was useful having this real thing there.
  • He finds more influences in paintings than in other films.
  • The title of the movie was originally Resident; the international distributor actually suggested Silent Resident, and Frosch was happy with that one. But he doesn't feel like the title is a key for films.


My experiences at the Toronto International Film Festival. Note this blog is not affiliated with the Toronto International Film Festival Group or the festival itself.
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