Tuesday, 9 July 2013

EIFF 2013: Consequence (Gegenwart)

Despite its English title, a sense of consequence – indeed, causality of any kind – is absent from German director Thomas Heise’s subtle documentary, which detachedly observes the minutiae of a small town crematorium’s daily operations. Its original German title Gegenwart – ‘present’ – seems more apt, not only because of the film’s day-in-the-life structure, but for the way it ironically undercuts the typical connotations – absence, loss, finality – associated with such a workplace.

Heise concentrates his camera on the building’s nuts-and-bolts underbelly – a cold, perfunctory space in which floors must be mopped, surfaces wiped down and furnaces maintained. Amid this, the dead are just another chore, dealt with in a matter-of-fact fashion by employees and filmmaker alike, both of whom treat the abundance of (identical, plain, stackable) coffins with an unemotional sense of routine. While this chilly distance keeps Consequence’s insights slight and somewhat aloof, it also provides a clear point of fascination, with its sober depiction of death (and the people who encounter it daily) neither macabre nor morose.

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