Einer von uns
Director: Stephan Richter
Writer: Stephan Richter
Cast: Jack Hofer, Simon Morzé, Christopher Schärf, Dominic Marcus Singer, Birgit Linauer, Andreas Lust, Markus Schleinzer, Rainer Wöss
Part of: Viennale
Seen on: 3.11.2015
[Review by cornholio.]
A young boy is shot in a supermarket. Just before that happens, the summer holidays stretch seemingly endlessly before Julian (Jack Hofer). In his small town there is barely any place to hang out for teenagers like him, they usually meet in the supermarket parking lot. That’s where Julian meets Marko (Simon Morzé) who just returned from a youth detention center, and through Marko Victor (Christopher Schärf) who is older but likes to be the big guy amid the teenagers. There is not much else that one can aspire to where they live. Select few, like Michael (Dominic Marcus Singer) find a job – in Michael’s case in the supermarket. For the local police, especially for Georg (Rainer Wöss), the teens who are hanging out are an eyesore that should be banned. In the summer heat all of these things come together in an explosive mix.
Einer von uns is more or less based on an actual shooting that happened in Lower Austria in 2009, where the police shot a 14-year-old dead in a supermarket and injured a 16-year-old. Instead of reconstructing the particular events of that shooting, Einer von uns attempts to explain how such a shooting could happen with fictional characters in a real story. It’s a sensitive, critical and thoughtful attempt that I can only recommend watching.
Richter decided to frame his explanation as a capitalism critique and that is a fascinating and very useful way to go about it. It starts with the framing of the body of a 14-year-old boy in a brightly lit supermarket, surrounded by products that have mattered more than him. It’s a film about how we as a society have become so obsessed with things that somehow it seems like an appropriate reaction to shoot somebody for messing with those products. Or if not an entirely adequate reaction, it’s only slightly overblown.
It also shows a society where there is simply no room for teenagers, both literally and figuratively. They don’t have a space to hang out because everything belongs to somebody that isn’t them. No money to spend means no space to be. But they also have no real perspectives and nowhere to go in time because there are no jobs and during the summer holidays there isn’t even school. Since they don’t have a place in society, they can’t possibly fit in. And that fact again catches the eye – and the scorn – of the police whose job it is to make sure that everyone and everything is in their proper place.
So teenagers become a symptom of a broken system and that makes them something to be feared – behind them towers a system that could come down around us any minute. In fact, it frequently does come down and only our constant work (often done by the police) patches it up and keeps it halfway together. It is that system, that clinging to something fundamentally broken, that Einer von uns calls into question, moving the question of guilt or fault away from the individuals into a bigger context. It’s not relevant whether the policeman was right to shoot or not. What is relevant is to look at the system that makes the policeman feel like his only option is to shoot. It is equally irrelevant whether the boys were good kids or bad kids. What is relevant is that they have no options to choose either way.
Richter manages to encapsulate this very complex analysis of the situation in a film that is engaging, wonderfully acted (with obviously excellent research into youth culture) and simply well made, not only for a first time director like Richter, but generally speaking. I was extremely impressed by it.
On a sidenote: Richter mentioned in the Q&A that Florian Flicker, an Austrian filmmaker who died recently, had planned to make a film about the same story, but basically picking up where Richter left of, examining the further procedure with the policeman, even using the same actor to almost create a kind of duology. I would have loved to see that.