Sept. 10th Entry. Imoprt/Export Sept 10, 2018 15:24:10 GMT
Post by vennyflennard (ENTP-A) on Sept 10, 2018 15:24:10 GMT
This is an analysis of the 2007 film Import/Export, written and directed by Ulrich Siedl, a well recognized Austrian director approaching retirement age, he was raised Catholic who was originally interested in becoming a priest. It was this biographical fact and the not so distinct, but present Christian themes and symbolism that made me consider this film for an example of rightist art. As with the work of many a successful director working in the modern film industry the film does not necessarily have overt rightist themes, but communicates them to us In Absentia i.e; the film lacks modern leftist troupes and talking points which is distinctive in itself due to films subject matter; immigration.
(i noticed westernman making a similar point in his entry; that this a fairly good method for spotting rightist sympathies on screen)
The film itself is about two young people, one Austrian young man who travels to Ukraine with his stepfather to engage in unskilled temporary work, while the other; Olga a nurse from the ukraine in fairly desprate circumstances travels into western europe lookin for better circumstances.I want to highlight several of the themes originally brought up in the primer post for this round which are present in this film, mainly Archetypes and ethnicity as well as covering the Christian themes, portrayal of modern globalist economic practices and will give a analysis of the artistic/stylistic presentation of the film itself. (I also have some further analysis of Son of the White Mare which will add afterwards but was unsure if it would be approriate to post here or in direct reply to the sept 3rd thread.)
The plot of the movie is also very simple (like SotWM), in this case economic use of plot is intentional, as is the distance emotionally we are kept from the protagonists so that one does not get swept up in the characterization and action and keeps their focus on the piece as a whole. This is the first clue that the director what his audience to look beneath the surface of what happening on film, and seek deeper meaning, indeed the long drawn out shots in the geriatric home and in the lengthy seen in which Michael the stepfather messes about with a prostitute are inviting, almost begging the viewer to start looking for a more profound reasoning or higher purpose behind the existence of the characters, asking the audience to contemplate such things brings one directly although subtly to links back to the idea of Transformation of the world in image of Christ, into something rich with meaning a theme I will return to later.
Throughout this film Archetypes are presented, although the people that represent or embody them display them in fallen or perverted froms or states, and when I say “perverted”; I mean intentionally hammered out of shape by society and the circumstances the characters find themselves in, this widespread, institutional corruption and compartmentalizing of the a archetypical human state is one of the major themes in the film. We will examine these archetypes before exploring what the film offers as its reasoning behind this condition.
Firstly lets look at the Archetype we are presented with; Paul is a young man who represents in many ways an ideal at least in a historical context of the society and class he comes from (an I will deal with further aspects of this when I come to discuss the way ethnicity is presented in the film.) he is physically strong, not overly ponderous or intellectual, willing to graft, and independent. He is essentially a male worker and protector archetype. This the film emphasizes this as soon as we meet his character as he is engaged in typically masculine task orientated gang/group behavior, taking part in what is also an archetypical and primitive manifestation of such: a military like drill.
Despite this Pauls life in his Austrian hometown is one of frustration, isolation and seems to be overshadowed by a lack of education. This lack of education is only subtly hinted at in the fact that Paul has seemingly no ability to plan for the future, he is in debt to local thugs and his stepfather and does not take his relationship with his girlfriend in any serious manner. This it self speaks to the wider civilization crisis Paul is living through buy showing us that indeed western European men have not taken steps to secure their future in a material sense, and they are certainly not in a position, nor interested in contemplating eternity in any truly constructive sense.
Olga is young nurse and mother from the Ukraine. She is the female parallel and would perhaps in another story take the place of the “golden” wife mentioned by Admin in his SotWM post. What however it is more immediately apparent perhaps is her deviation from this archetypical role by the fact she is identified as a single mother. The early scenes of her as a nurse introduce to us to one of the movies major themes: that the archetypical roles that people have naturally evolved to fulfill in their communities have been institutionalized, and that these institution are dividing, replacing and degrading the places people originally took in society. Early in the film a shot her dancing with her friends shows her partaking in typically female social clique maintaining behavior. As we watch we will discover that these roles formed by generations of sucessful and stable evolutionary strategy have been butchered for profit.
Olga's own role is emphasied by the fact we see here treating a new born life, a human being born in a medical institution. As Olga progresses through the movie she takes jobs which all contain aspects of the mystic feminine archetype; lover, homemaker, mother, nurturer, however it is as though the global economy has stripped theis once sacred archtype down to its most basic nuts and bolts components and developed a system in which by its own logic, a surrogate with a very basic training can be made to fill. Olga, separated from her own baby is an Au Pair, caring for another and with her job performing over webcam to strangers who cannot speak her language this serves to display the degradation of wifely duties, separated out as individual tasks; this is perhaps seen most strongly while she is working as a cleaner in the old people home, despite her training as a nurse she is forbidden to interact or touch the patients. Despite the inborn qualities to perform both tasks she is made explicitly aware her destiny is to perform the role assigned and nothing more.
Fathers are completely absent from this movie, a key social archetype. Paul has a stepdad Michael who is deeply degenerate. Olga has no father we see and the father of her child is notable in his complete absence. This may be, in reference to subtle Christian messaging, a physical manifestation symbolic of lack of God in society, but I think it is more accurate to perhaps to aline this lack of fathers as a reflection of the real world phenomenon. Also in keeping with the idea of the institutionization and global distribution of people and roles we should remember that fatherhood was one of the first social archetype to be attacked and judged evil or at the very least irrelevant by modern leftists.
Instead of a father we have Michael who if anything represents of a kind of archetypical product of modern European society; that of the middle aged sex tourist. He is a man happy with his animalistic state and despite his own spiritually diminutive nature he laughs at the economic squalor he encounters in a gypsy housing estate. Another interesting aspect of his character is his complete faith in the system, he does not see the obvious signs of a crumbling civilization. Michaels degenerate personality, despite a respectable relationship eventually leads him to be abandoned by Paul, who I assume feelings of contempt/embarrassment got the better off after the witnessing his stepfathers lengthy and casual humiliation of a prostitute. By this we can perhaps link Michaels character of being somewhat representative of the value of the things that neoliberal economics can actually deliver as compared to what it takes from people. Rather than a father, or perhaps civilization to be a part of Paul is left with a rather grotty guy extremely pleased with himslef at having paid a girl to bark like a dog, I feel this further emphasizes a point that is first delivered in the guise of the actual employment Paul and Michael are engaged in; selling outdated gambling machines to run down bars. What the global economic system has to offer won't give you fulfillment. Paul and Micheals argument in a bar dispalys the divide between them clearly, and what lacks in their relationship and allows Paul frustration with not being given anything higher to value by his elders to be expressed verbally.
The way in which the older, middle aged women in the west are betrayed is very interesting, they are certainly far removed from the feminine archetype of folklore and serve to highlight that, not only have these women surrendered some their feminine aspect for the lifestyles they lead, they have outsourced the tender and nurturing family roles to the labor market, essentially buying these qualities on a globalised a market. Indeed the middle class woman who employs Olga as a maid comes across as particularly unpleasant, and Pauls mother bound to her cozy home enjoys a life of leisure. The films implies that these liberated western women have placed the burden of their own responsibilities onto others.
If we look at the Christian themes in this film, they are indeed, at first at least, subtle. It is over the halfway point before we see anything of a religious nature on the screen, and it is the form a simple before bedtime prayer, it is very brief moment and serves as an underscore of the relatively understated role Olga plays in the film; that of a vessel of Gods grace. The theme of a common dignity through Christian belief in a strong theme of the film that is largely given to the audience through the lack of dignity the characters face in their daily lives, as well as the seemingly meaningless humiliation and brutality they encounter. Olga interaction with the elderly patients in various stages of dementia, and particularly her brief talk of arranging a marriage with a terminally ill man, allow a moment of humanity to spring up, giving both a sense of the common dignity received through Christ, brought suddenly and visually to a head by her tearful moment beneath the crucifix. Its position, with her between it the and corpse serve further to show us that it was through her interactions with his man that he and she briefly became more than economic units. Indeed the elderly people living out the end of their lives in a institution serves as an emphases the common dignity of man theme, or lack of it in modern Europe, in its strongest form.
Again I want to point out the Christian themes in this movie are quite subtle or even unmentioned. Divorce, although prevalent in the film is never mentioned, its affect upon the families in the film only apart of the environment which they live. The films most explicit Christian message seems to be in the implied transformation power of the faith; that is to say that the world is a fallen place and needs to be transformed in the image of Christ. Throughout the film we see humans suffer humiliation and cruelty, Olga especially suffers greater insults to her dignity and is also the only devout Christian and there is a sequence in the movie that in my mind cemented her characters role as a vessel through which a divine grace touches others. There is a scene in which she is standing in the hospital ward surrounded by the incomprehensible babbling of dementia patients, throughout the film the emotions of the characters are kept at an arms lengths but soon after she briefly phones her mother and child and sings through the phone, this transformation of the mundane human voice channeled into a beautiful song is what signals this, however gently to the audience. The film also draws on comparisons between the material poverty of some eastern European communities and the spiritual poverty of lapsed catholic societies of mitteleuropa.
The films style, with very large framing shots of apartment building and icy landscapes, often detailing interlocking patterns of shapes tells us some interesting things about the position the characters find themselves in. While this cinematographic style is visually striking and quite similar to a few english speaking directors it serves as more than just a visual pull, and I do think it was this camera style that helped give the films its appeal amongst creative industry types. The large structures that the characters find themselves framed in are symbolic of larger forces at work, but are those larger forces at work God, his cosmology and will? Perhaps, or maybe they are the vast arms of the global neoliberal economy as they ferry people and capital across the continent.
Despite the artistic frameworking the film is shot in a realist style. Many of the shorts are of apartment buildings or buildings containing state infrastructure. Because the film is comparing two societies one which has collapsed (the former soviet union) and one that is collapsing (western Europe) the shots of crumbling estates and peeling paint and broken or poorly maintained machinery in the Ukraine are vessels through which we see Olgas nation of origin is a post-collapse society. In Austria the nature of available employment, sex work and security are used to put emphasis on this. When these are main offered lines of work, you should KNOW that something is wrong, this is essentially a warning. It is further embellished upon by the very fact that this film is prying into societies blind spots with a camera and just focusing on these lengthy plot-small scenes. Its not necessarily horrific or totally shocking what we see, buts its lingered on just long enough for the viewer to say in their mind: “I disagree/object to what going on here.” This film has the potential to make even the most progressive or corporate line open borders types uncomfortable enough to question there faithfulness in their moral system.
This combination of sparse plot and visual realism in an invitation by the author to look closely at what going a ask if there us a deeper meaning here. The long uncomfortable shots are calling upon the viewer by making them look and watch, to ask if there is anything going on other than mere existence. However the tone of the movie is not judgmental in any way, it plays at presenting you with the world as “how it is” especially through its use of nonprofessional actors and real world locations.
The role that ethnicity plays in the film is also subtle in most respects and probably not projected intentionally by the writer and director. The two main characters, one eastern Europe the other from central, technically western Europe come from phenotypically distinct populations. Olga is Ukrainian and although she speaks a language of the eastern slavic origin, is physically more reminiscent of some of the longer established essentially peasant peoples of eastern europe , this is significant because she is uprooted from this community (which probably, ultimately has Neolithic origins) away from her child, possibly breaking several millennia more nor less of continued inhabitance; the gradual destruction of traditional communities is a well documented effect of modern economic policy.
Paul is an Austrian, very Nordic looking although whether he inherited appearance from Volkswunderingun Germanic back migrations of whether he is essentially descendant from tribes of the local Hallstatt pre-roman iron age tradition is unknown and irreverent; for all purposes Paul is an atomized individual. He represents a portion of the population that were historical bearers of culture into Europe but that is now isolated from it, his physical appearance subtly communicates to us that young European men are no longer valued or respected for their historic contribution. This is to say that the society that has perverted the archetypes and social organizations originally brought to Europe by indoeuroprean culture views the people whose place it has ideologically written out of the social contract as a liability, and Paul has essentially become one to himself when we are introduced to him and his life.
More interestingly the movie features several unintegrated aliens living on European soil and makes some interesting points to they way their ethnic identities conflict with the nations they have moved into. Firstly Paul if fired from his security job after being beaten up by a gang of Turks or Kurds (presumably; these are the largest ethnic minorities in Austria that resemble the gang in question. 350,000 - 500,000 pop.) These Turks, who surround, strip, humiliate and beat Paul clearly do not see what they are doing as a group of young men victimizing a single young man, which many westerners would see a cowardly, instead they see their behavior through a tribal lenses. They see they're beating of Paul as the victory of a strong tribe over a weak tribe. This is emphased through their ritual song and dance around his bound form and the fact they mock “real Austrian beer” during the beating.
Another group clearly differentiated by race, behavior and social class are the Roma Gypsies living in an old soviet housing block. They have essentially destroyed their free government housing to the point that most Europeans would consider it uninhabitable, despite being on European soil for possibly the best part of a millennium. These Roma serve as a striking metaphor for one the films themes which it very quietly hints at through out the whole film, that of class, caste, or more totally: the failure of both the soviet union and western liberal democracy's to deliver on the twentieth century dream of a classless society. Those Roma, despite being given everything which would have materially put them on par/made them identical to the settled Ukrainians have destroyed them and now occupy the position of an out caste.
This idea of parallel lives plays constantly through the film, mostly evidently in the fact that although the two main characters are by circumstances socially linked they never meet one another. The different separate aspects of the female archetype, degraded into lowpaying unrewarding work, maid, camgirl, cleaner, nurse and the binding rules and regulations that come with it e.g cleaners not being allowed to interact with patients or as an au pair cleaning up after the children but being forbidden to bond with them tell us in a direct way that this is no recipe for a fulfilling existence but also show us that the drive to “equal societies” has failed, the middle aged women who have renounced their older feminine rolls have simply outsourced them, and in doing so have taken feminine essence of Olga, her nuturing nature from her own child and family. Indeed the bratty child she is employed to care for will never appreciate, nor prehaps register the significance of the short time she spent with his family before being dismissed. How will the absence of Olga affect her own childs upbringing though? The unintergated foreigners, parallel lives, second class citizens and hidden away sleazy work that does not offer a decent sustainable living wage really brings to light the ridiculousness of the last centuries so called drives to equality.
The films focus on the economic practices that are the push/pull of the events in the characters lives, and emphasizes the human cost, hence the title “import/export.” The focus on the humiliation and undignified circumstances is counter weighed by the seemingly ridiculously low payouts for the people involved in the story. Paul and Michael are selling arcade machines that offer a quick thrill and hole in the wallet. Brief meaningless sex for pleasure is also brought and sold cheap, and while all that is being sold to customer is a quick wank, Olga, her friend and the unnamed prostitute are all selling far more profound. The youthful potential, the fire of the future is here squandered, reinforcing the cycle of decline.
This film through the exposure of this unprofitable bargain in which the youth of European countries sell themselves to global companies which partake in the institutionalizing/streamline of national economies, people are stripped of their communities and visa-versa and get little in return. This movie does more than look at the hollow offers of the neoliberal system, that offers gumball machines but not running water on one respect, and efficiently pulls in unskilled laborers into short term jobs that either help manage or even exacerbate the psyhical collapse of society for profit on another. However the film does more than this, in focusing on the institutionalization of social/economic roles and life it displays to us the level of entrapment within these institutions in which people are caught up. The film, near enough starts with a baby beginning life in a hospital and then ends with shots of people living out their final days in a similar medical institution. The people living and working inbetween these stages that open and close life are similarly, through the training they receive and circumstances put under are essentially broken down and made to fit the corporate approved and degraded roll for which the money making system needs to be slotted into. The reality of life and death brought into focus constantly by the film shows us the real cost of living life in such circumstances.
So in conclusion the film presents to characters that seemingly embody traditional archetype with all the potential to be virtuous citizens with fulfilling lives, that come up against a modern economy focused on profit and that is distributed globally. The characters are integrated into a system that cares nothing for human nature or the historic and cultural circumstances of people, nor the frustration and desperation they face. These archetypical characters are reduced to products, maintained and approved of by globalised institutions. The film also tells us that the personal gains one usually takes from working, aren't to be had here, none of the characters have gained anything from what we have seen, Olga's future is just a precarious and although Paul has abandoned his stepfather by the end of the film to look for work alone the last we see of him is a shot of him walking alone, attempting to hitch a ride, either back east or further west although where to we are unsure, maybe he does not know himself.
Through the realism of the action on screen, the long look at the drudgery and brutality of modern life in the European underclass which is hard viewing at times and with the gentle reminders through shots and scenes of religious activity quietly woven into the film, the director is asking us to look closer and wonder, as we look at the rather dull and depressing lives of Paul and Olga to ask if there is a spark of the divine present here, however out of site it may be, a divine presence which can potential give common decency and a shared heritage to a people in a way that our own global “shared” system will not.