Nordrand [Northern Skirts] (1999)

Nordrand
Director: Barbara Albert
Writer: Barbara Albert
Cast: Nina Proll, Edita Malovcic, Astrit Alihajdaraj, Tudor Chirila, Michael Tanczos, Georg Friedrich, Brigitte Kren, Margarete Tiesel
Seen on: 12.2.2016

Plot:
Jasmin (Nina Proll) and Tamara (Edita Malovcic) were in school together when they were kids, but have since drifted apart. While Tamara is working as a nurse and dating Roman (Michael Tanczos), leading a relatively stable life, Jasmin is drifting at the edge of the politically right scene, moving from guy to guy and none of them are particularly nice. Their paths cross again, when they both end up getting an abortion on the same day. And somehow this time their connection seems to stick.

Nordrand is a smart film that looks closely at harsh social circumstances in Vienna. And it’s also a film with vivid characters that are lovingly set in scene.

nordrand

Nordrand is a wonderful example of what current Austrian cinema is particularly good at: the critical dissection of Austrian society. It’s a film that takes on many topics – from mobbing to abortion, from migration to abuse – and focuses on the working class that is often forgotten or exploited in films. [Not necessarily in Austrian cinema (though we do have that as well and especially the latter part is often debatable), but generally speaking.] Nordrand, meaning the Northern edge of Vienna which is where a lot of the working class is almost ghettoized, is firmly set in that class, but avoids being exploitative by focusing on the characters and showing them as people foremost. It also feels like Albert simply liked her characters – which is much rarer in filmmakers than you’d think.

So, we do get all of these issues and another filmmaker would have probably made this film into an exercise in drudgery and misery, but Albert takes a different route: in the end it’s a film about hope, in a very pragmatic way: Neither of the protagonists might be exactly living the life they dreamt of when they were children, but in the distortions that come from confronting dreams with reality, there is power to actually come close to your dreams. This may sound a little metaphyiscal, but trust me, the film is not. It’s just shows that there can be a lot of hope in confronting dreams with reality and in the rebuilding that has to come from that confrontation.

nordrand1Both Nina Pröll and Edita Malovcic perfectly embody their characters, as unlike to each other as they are. Next to them, the rest of both cast and characters pretty much vanishes, leaving particularly Valentin (Tudor Chirila) stuck somewhere between main and supporting character. It could have been nice if his part had been fleshed out a bit more. But that’s just nitpicking, really.

All in all it’s a powerful, well-made piece of film that manages to tell its story in few, but excellently placed strokes and always puts its characters first. I would have loved to stay with them longer and see them figure out the next part of their lives.

nordrand2Summarizing: You should definitely watch it.

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