Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Antares (2004)

During a cold, overcast weekend in Vienna, we peer through the drab concrete walls of a high rise apartment building and into the complicated lives its residents in this collection of three lightly interwoven tales of domestic strife. The first story concerns an attractive middle class couple (Petra Morze and Hary Prinz) whose opposing work schedules have caused their lives to become a grinding routine, and their marriage to slowly erode.

Next, we learn about a young grocery cashier (Suzanne Wuest) who is desperately trying to get pregnant for all the wrong reasons. Lastly, we meet a sociopathic realtor (well played by Alex Kiendl) whose emotions can range from smoothly charming to violently abusive in mere seconds, and we become involved in his pathetic attempts to reconcile with his estranged wife (Martina Zinner), as she bravely tries to rebuild her life.

The first narrative is the strongest, featuring a compelling performance by Morze (who is sort of the Catherine Deneuve of Austria) as well as some surprisingly graphic sexuality. Viewers may even feel a bit of a let down when the second story commences, but stick with it, as the momentum is soon restored and we are treated to an ending that ties up all the loose threads in a believable and satisfying way.

Talented auteur Gotz Spielman is clearly influenced by the work of his fellow Austrian Michael Haneke, but Spielman’s filmic stylings are more traditional, and, while there are moments here that will make you gasp, he wisely never delves full-out into Haneke’s brand of drastic, intentionally disturbing realism. “Antares” is reminiscent of an edition of well crafted short stories and if, for instance, John Cheever or Raymond Carver were from Eastern Europe, the results would look something like this.

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