Life Guidance (2017)

Life Guidance
Writer: Ruth Mader
Director: Martin Leidenfrost, Ruth Mader
Cast: Fritz Karl, Katharina Lorenz, Florian Teichtmeister, Nicolas Jarosch, Petra Morzé, Udo Samel, Alfons Mensdorff-Pouilly, Johann Adam Oest
Seen on: 22.1.2018

Alexander (Fritz Karl) is married to Anna (Katharina Lorenz). They have a son (Nicolas Jarosch) and by the looks of it, their life is pretty much perfect. But then Alexander says something that worries Life Guidance, the organisation in charge of helping people living the best life they can possibly live. They send in their agent, Gregor (Florian Teichtmeister), to make sure that Alexander stays on track.

I wanted to like Life Guidance – being an Austrian Science Fiction film made by a woman – much more than I actually did. While it has strong parts, it just doesn’t come together as it should.

Life Guidance reminded me visually of Stille Reserven (another Austrian SciFi flick) as they are both rather sterile and monochrome – a not uncommon optic among SciFi films. Unfortunately that also means, that it looks a little boring and a little too been there, done that. (Not to devolve into a comparison of the two films, but I did like Life Guidance despite its weaknesses better than Stille Reserven.)

That it is a little boring isn’t just due to the – obviously deliberately chosen – visuals, but that the story becomes a little too convoluted and confusing for its own sake after a while. It’s a film that clearly makes a political and/or moral statement – about capitalism and the constant pressure to optimize everything – but to me it felt like the actual statement became increasingly less understandable.

I was also a little annoyed that the film doesn’t seem to question the patriarchal order of the world it created. It is clear that the film is very crittical of this society, a society where we may all end up with neoliberal/capitalist structures as they are. But while the movie very obviously shows a man’s world, the criticism of patriarchy (that is so very entwined with capitalism) falls by the wayside. And the fact that there are barely any women in the film unfortunately isn’t a criticism in itself, given that most movies have more men than women. Instead of criticism, it becomes reproduction of existing structures.

It’s not that the film isn’t worth watching, not at all. It has interesting ideas and good performances. It’s just that in the execution of said ideas, it stumbles a few times and that takes away from its power.

Summarizing: could be better.

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