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The Cinema of Jessica Hausner BFI

Filmmaker feature by: Bruna Foletto Lucas


Jessica Hausner is an Austrian filmmaker who has been receiving due praise around Europe, especially now with her latest film Little Joe (selected to compete for the Palme d'Or at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival), and is now the focus of a “season” at the British Film Institute, in London.

Although Hausner has been working as a filmmaker since her first short in 1992 titled Geburtstag, it hasn’t always been easy for her. As she mentioned in interviews before, because Austria wasn’t very influential in the cinema world, she realised she needed to create her own company (Coop99, founded later in 1999)in order to market her films internationally. By taking this first step and tightening her bonds with a group of film professionals, which would remain with her throughout all of her films (Tanja Hausner, costume designer, Katharina Wöppermann, set designer, and Martin Gschlacht, DOP), Hausner paved a path for herself. In 2001, with her film Lovely Rita, Hausner made her debut at the 2001 Cannes Film Festival having her film screened in the Un Certain Regard section (created for “less conventional” films). She returned to Cannes three more times, in 2004 with Hotel and in 2014 with Amour Fou, and, as mentioned before, last year with Little Joe.

Some have labelled the Austrian filmmaker as Kubrick’s heir, which can be a blessing but also a burden. Her work lies on the verge between mainstream and experimental films, which makes some of her films difficult to watch, sometimes narrowing her audience. Nevertheless, it doesn’t lessen the fact that her films are beautifully done and the whole ensemble creates an impressive body of work.

Being aware of the irony, as films rely on images, the most interesting thing about Hausner’s work is the invisibility. More than mainstream filmmakers, Hausner’s films, instead of making use of words, are explored through images, the visual means and the atmosphere they create, allowing for different and personal understandings of the film. Thus, the importance is placed upon the images as she delves into a pre-linguistic stage to explore feelings she doesn’t dare naming, nor defining. Moreover, the contradiction offered between the documentary tone and the artificial element that her films bare, creates mood pieces that are more interested in creating doubt on the spectators’ mind rather than explaining it.

Furthermore, another important detail to mention is her films’ characters. In the majority of times, Hausner’s characters are lonely and quirky, and her protagonists are often women – not because she wants to make a statement, but because it feels more natural to her. She also explores her characters’ innermost feelings - focusing on what they might be feeling behind their mask – through a cold and refrigerated photography.

Despite having said that nowadays it is more difficult to make a film due to her own high standards, Hausner continues to “deal with the inexpressible” – that is her own vision of cinema.


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