Updated: Mar 11
Directed by #JessicaHausner
Written by #JessicaHausner
Jessica Hausner is known as a revered director and so in honour of her talent and her upcoming film Little Joe, the BFI dedicated a season to showing her work. This is how I saw a screening of Hausner’s first film project, Flora, which was filmed in 1995. Hausner’s coming of age film follows the moments of a young woman, named Flora, as she struggles to fit in with her family and society, whilst she also struggles to deal with the transition from girlhood to womanhood.
Claudia Penitz plays the lead role of Flora and despite not liking the character very much; Penitz is able to play the role of an apathetic, lonely young woman very well. Still, I cannot tell if the actor is informing the character or if it is the other way around. Whilst the character of Flora is somewhat relatable, she is not likeable at all. She is completely stoical and because of this it was hard to understand her relationships with some of the other characters.
There is very little dialogue in the story, and Flora isn’t even the most vocal character in the piece. In fact, when translated from German to English, Flora only says approximately 25 words in the whole 25 minutes of the film. On the other hand, Flora’s underwhelming personality and presence is interesting because it not only isolates her from the other characters, but from the audience too. It’s a double-edged sword, very clever if intentional but I’m not sure that is the case.
The soundtrack was okay, there wasn’t anything that stood out to me in this area, apart from a not-so-great rendition of Elton John’s Your Song. Considering that Flora attends dance classes, it is surprising that the soundtrack didn’t make more of an impression. However, like the lack of excitability from Flora, the lack of musical excitement may have served the purpose of highlighting the mundane situations that Flora finds herself in. I am more confident that this was done deliberately.
The aspect of this film that has really made me appreciate Hausner’s work is the use of disjointed, or discontinued shots, but unlike some other short films I have reviewed, it is clear that this is was definitely a stylistic choice on Hausner’s part and assisted by her cinematographer, Robert Winkler. These shots were really well thought out and kept with the whole theme of feeling disconnected from your environment and those in it.
Hausner gained a lot of recognition for Flora and actually won the Lion of Tomorrow prize at the Locarno Film Festival in 1996. So it is clear that at the time of its release, Flora was thought to be somewhat avant-garde and fresh. Considering that this was Hausner’s first film, whilst it was not the most enjoyable for me to watch, it has made me curious about how her style may have improved or changed over the years; so I will definitely be looking at more of her work.