Saturday, October 22, 2011


Marseille (2004) - Schanelec
Angela Schanelec's Marseille is an enigma. With daring shifts, jarring jump cuts and elliptical structure, the film begs for your full attention. It starts out with a young German woman, Sophie, arriving in Marseille. First one third of the film is with Sophie. She is sitting in a passenger's side of a car driven by a French woman (named Zelda, we learn later on) who is swapping her apartment with Sophie's. While in Marseille, Sophie doesn't do much. She photographs random streets, meets a man who rents her a car, gets insulted by a rude friend of the man. We don't get to really know her. She seems to be a nice young woman, if not somewhat plain and living an uneventful life. Then we are back in Germany. There are Ivan the photographer who Sophie may or may not be in love with, Hanna, a stage actress/the wife of Ivan and their young son. We get to know them, well not really. But we can tell Hanna is not really happy. Then there is a stage play where Hanna has a small part.

It takes time to understand what Schanelec is up to with the film. We see the play three times- the camera slowly pans and we get to see only the parts of the play at a time. Hanna comes in to the frame and exits in different intervals. Then there is Ivan taking photographs of random factory women in profile. Some of them are chattier than others. Again, we see and hear only the glimpse of their lives. Schanelec sketches out these moments. There are a lot that are not shown nor explained. Sophie decides to go back to Marseille, something bad happens as soon as she arrives and we don't get to see what happens of course.

There are people we see in the streets and wonder why they are in their particular states. Sometimes we imagine their back story. What we see in front of us is not the full picture and often deceptive. Obviously it is impossible to get to know someone in one hour and thirty minutes. Schanelec understands that. Marseille can be interpreted as a much ado about nothing and that Schanelec's approach is cold and detached. I find it certainly a challenging, yet quite invigorating movie watching experience.

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