news, death panels will be safely abolished in the future. Instead, heroic
efforts will be taken to prolong the lives of the poor and the powerless. That’s
the whole problem. Those in debt, who might otherwise die in peace, will be
kept alive in vegetative states, so their bodies can be used as energy sources and
their unused brain capacity can be utilized for networked computing. Basically,
you need yourself some death insurance. That’s what Vincent Baumann used to
sell until he was demoted to an undercover operative. Baumann might just
uncover more than his insurance company bargained for in Valentin Hitz’s Hidden Reserves (trailer here), which screens
during the 2016 Other Worlds Austin Science Fiction Film Festival.
meticulous preparation and keen understanding of human psychology made him a
good sales agent. It also makes him a perfect narc. Baumann was on the fast
track to promotion until he failed to close a sale with the reclusive
industrialist Wladimir Sokulov, who might harbor mixed feelings regarding his
role in realizing this brave new world. His activist daughter Lisa’s misgivings
are even more pronounced. Her resistance cell was planning a major operation
until her inside source was suddenly promoted.
her down will be Baumann’s first assignment. However, Sokulov is clearly onto
Baumann’s true identity, while he is most likely falling for her. The stakes
really start to rise when her father doesn’t quite die without death insurance.
within the context of the film, so-called death insurance is just a fancier and
more morbid manifestation of protection money. If a cat like Wladimir Sokulov
can get hooked up to the ventilators for ostensive debts, anyone can. So why is
it so hard to sell policies? As a concept, it pushes a lot of class
warfare/right-to-die hot buttons, but it doesn’t really make sense.
the other hand, the style of Reserve is
to die for. Frankly, it evokes a Fassbinder vibe with its near future Vienna
setting, resembling the divided post-war city and the Berlin of the early 1980s.
There is also the seductive but androgynous femme fatale and even a breathy
Ingrid Caven-esque soundtrack. Martin Gschlacht’s (mostly) black-and-white
cinematography is absolutely striking, in a suitably austere, dystopian sort of
Hitz has an eye for composition, but his dramatic sense is not as keen. Of
course, he deliberately cast two of the iciest, most rigidly severe co-leads
you will ever hope to see. Yet, there is something weirdly compelling about
them, especially when they are struggling to act semi-human.
The lack of a consistent internal logic system
is a big drawback for Reserve, but it
definitely looks cool. If you plan on seeing several films at a genre festival
where it is playing, its distinctive visuals might be enough to recommend it,
but it is probably not worth a special trip on its own. For fans of Teutonic
dystopian science fiction, Hidden
Reserves screens this Sunday (12/4) as part of Other Worlds Austin.
Labels: Austrian Cinema, Dystopian Cinema, Other Worlds Austin '16