We hear and see four Austrian singers/songwriters: Gustav, Clara Luzia, Teresa Rotschopf and Luise Pop (in order of appearance in the documentary by Miriam Unger) with their respective bands in a fascinating cinematic reportage exploring their creative processes and performances. We see how they work, what they focus on (in their texts, music and performances) and how they create their fictional stage personas. These artists allow us in-depth, emotional insight into their work as they develop their concepts and artistic visions. It is inspiring to watch how they express themselves, pause for thought and find solutions. There are both moments of doubt and poised decision-making, of anxiety and relaxation – all the diverse facets of the creative process.
The film has a complex structure. It appears to follow the cycle of the seasons (summer, winter and then summer again), but the fragments of dialogue seem to take place in an immediate filmic presence in which development, continuity and fresh starts are tangible: pregnancy and going back to work after maternity leave (Gustav); the decision to leave the band and work as a solo artist (Teresa Rotschopf); overcoming health problems which were probably the result of extreme exhaustion (Clara Luzia); and the successful search for identity (Luise Pop) – if such a summary of the plot is at all possible.
The musicians never meet over the course of the film, but their statements are closely interlinked. They talk about empowerment through productivity or the long overdue introduction of fully legitimate and unconditional equal rights – without it coming across as a catalogue of demands. The sad fact that women are still being patronised for being “not too bad” as musicians (because they excel in all areas and not, as is the norm, “only” as singers) is flabbergasting to those receiving the “praise” – a mockery in face of such obvious professionalism and compelling visions – and this in the 21st century! Not least because of these issues, this film is also political, examining social issues in a radical and critical light.
The film features virtually no interviews and no commentary by “experts”. The relaxed familiarity with the film team is always palpable.
They perform, oh yeah – and so do the cameras, editors and the director. The handheld camera literally seems to fly along with the edited sequences and then come to rest once again at a breathing pace. The director, photographer and editor work enthusiastically with focus, depth of field, colour wiping, colour impressions and freeze frames. There are very short and rhythmical sequences, interspersed with uncut conversation and performance scenes (e.g. the solo of the women on the drums!).
Takes in private apartments, in the studio or on stage offer more than just headshots of the protagonists and provide insight into their eye movements, smiles, facial expressions and gestures. At the same time, the spatial context with all its details becomes part of the narrative, such as when Luise Pop coolly leans against the flowery wallpaper holding her guitar – or rather her Mustang, like Curt Cobain’s. All the protagonists are presented in their living environments at a respectful distance, with no hint of voyeuristic curiosity.
Naturally they all work in teams. But the person who makes the decisions remains (or becomes) undisputed (Teresa Rotschopf: “I want to do it the way I want it.”)
And the music… it bursts from the speakers; inserts with keywords from the lyrics make the songs even more accessible – this method has an almost haptic feel to it; the words come at us and pierce us to our core. Fragments of songs which are immediately stored in our minds. down to the beach – BEACH. Addictive!
Oh, yes, indeed: she performs.
Birgit FLOS, writer – JULY 2012