Quiet Moments: Our Review of ‘I Was at Home, But…’

Posted in Movies, Virtual Cinema, What's Streaming? by - June 08, 2020
Quiet Moments: Our Review of ‘I Was at Home, But…’

Angela Schanelec’s movies might be frustratingly obtuse for a mainstream audience, but they eventually reveal themselves to those with patience. That is specifically true for her new movie I Was at Home, But…,” showing a few days in the life of Astrid, a fortysomething single mom. Schanelec gives time for minutiae, as Astrid tries to buy a bike from a fellow Berliner with electronic vocal chords. But within this minutia is a bigger story. She also tries to clean her son Phillip’s (Jakob Lassalle) jacket. It’s dirty from a mysterious absence that might get him in trouble in school. A lesser filmmaker would have answered these questions. But Schanelec, an impressionist filmmaker like Bresson, has other interests in her mind.

Schanelec presents trauma as a complex thing, something that does not have to surface but still affects more than one person. Her interests in depicting this include making time to depict one of Phillip’s teachers. He is Lars (Franz Rogowski), who is going through his own personal troubles. He seems to be begging to a woman, and the movie eventually clears up what their conflict is. His troubles are slightly reminiscent of Astrid’s, as Schanelec portrays a Berlin of single people. People unable to either find love or to convince others of what the right thing to do. But of course, his story does not perfectly parallel Astrid’s. Schanelec presents puzzle pieces that do not fit.

This movie mixes quiet moments with louder ones, with children oblivious to the adults making decisions for them. It also shows the burden of that decision. It is up to us to find out if it reveals why Phillip disappeared, and if that reason will make us judge him. Eggert and Schanelec worked together previously in Marseille, another movie about trauma. This time around, she gives Eggert more to do. And the stark contrasts mostly work. She follows eight minutes of silence with Astrid’s occasional monologues. Both those silences and the monologues show conflict without villains. But that does not stop these characters from defending either each other or the ideas they believe in. These characters are as mature as the director depicting them.

The only thing that does not fit here are the nature scenes, making Astrid and the other characters disappear. Rabbits and donkeys roam through ruins, which seems like filler. It also shows a nearby ravine at night to an acoustic version of David Bowie’s Let’s Dance. The night gets darker and it will not surprise some people if what comes next is like watching paint dry. Such juxtapositions of sight and sound fuel valid criticisms against this movie, painting this as hipster existentialism. Otherwise, the movie is engaging, a character study of a mother trying to do her best despite of circumstances.

I Was at Home, But… is available through the Art Gallery of Hamilton’s Virtual Cinema.

  • Release Date: 6/7/2020
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While Paolo Kagaoan is not taking long walks in shrubbed areas, he occasionally watches movies and write about them. His credentials are as follows: he has a double major in English and Art History. This means that, for example, he will gush at the art direction in the Amityville house and will want to live there, which is a terrible idea because that house has ghosts. Follow him @paolokagaoan on Instagram but not while you're working.
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