Stille Reserven [Hidden Reserves] (2016)

Stille Reserven
Director: Valentin Hitz
Writer: Valentin Hitz
Cast: Clemens Schick, Lena Lauzemis, Daniel Olbrychski, Marion Mitterhammer, Simon Schwarz, Stipe Erceg, Dagmar Koller
Seen on: 7.11.2016

Vienna in the not too distant future. People have lost their right to simply die: after you pass away, your body is reanimated, put into a vegetative state and used as processing power or storage device, put to work to pay off the debts you’re sure to have left behind. The only thing that will keep you from becoming a computer part is a death insurance – and Vincent (Clemens Schick) is the best salesman of this of course very expensive insurance. When his boss (Marion Mitterhammer) gives him the task of convincing Wladimir (Daniel Olbrychski) of getting an insurance, he finds himself confronted with Wladimir’s daughter Lisa (Lena Lauzemis) who is fighting to get everybody their right to death back.

I saw Stille Reserven a while ago at a test screening where they showed an almost but not quite finished version of it and asked for feedback. I was not particularly taken with it then, but I wanted to see it once more as a finished product (also to support Austrian SciFi) before judgding it completely. Unfortunately, neither the film nor my impression of it changed much in the meantime. There was just too much about it that was utterly familiar.

Stille Reserven builds off of a good idea. You may not care what happens to your body after death (I don’t), but since the bodies here are kept in a vegetative state and are kept this way often against their will, with the question of whether you can say no becoming a purely economic one, it becomes a very problematic practice indeed. Although I did like the idea that you’re not forced to leave behind debt for your heirs, but can actually work them off after your death. That’s a useful concept, I’d say.

But the thing is, I would love to see this concept played around with somebody who is familiar with feminist activism and research on bodily autonomy, and I assume that Hitz isn’t. Or at least looking at the absolute sexism of his film, I can’t imagine that he has ever given feminist thought the time of the day.

There are barely any women in the film to begin with and the few that there are, don’t talk to each other and all fall squarely into cliché territory without doing anything interesting with those clichés. But not only that, there are barely any women in the background of the film either. This is a men’s world in a very literal sense. And the showdown where [SPOILER] Vincent gets to save the fridged Lisa’s body [/SPOILER] in the most sexist iconography was annoying as fuck.

But most of all, the film bored me. It looked like pretty much every Science Fiction film ever, in all dark tones, black and grey. The story it develops has been done to death – from Fahrenheit 451 to Equilibrium. And even though it is set in Vienna, people don’t talk Austrian German and if it wasn’t for a couple of landmarks, this could be Anywhere, Western World. That means there are too many familiar elements that take aways from the idea and don’t really let it shine. And the pacing was too slow.

Hands down my favorite parts where Dagmar Koller’s cameo (I didn’t think that I would ever write that sentence) and Daniel Olbrychki’s Wladimir. But other than that, Stille Reserven just didn’t convince.

Summarizing: It’s okay. Not great, but okay.

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