Angelo (2018)

Director: Markus Schleinzer
Writer: Alexander Brom, Markus Schleinzer
Cast: Makita Samba, Alba Rohrwacher, Larisa Faber, Kenny Nzogang, Lukas Miko, Gerti Drassl, Michael Rotschopf, Jean-Baptiste Tiémélé, Nancy Mensah-Offei, Christian Friedel
Seen on: 4.12.2018

Content Note: racism

The Countess (Alba Rohrwacher) wants a new accessoire, so she heads to the slave market to get herself a black boy. The first Angelo she gets gets ill and dies, unfortunately, so she gets another one. This Angelo (Kenny Nzogang) is hardier. He grows up in her household. Baptized and educated, Angelo Soliman (Makita Samba) becomes the court mascot in Vienna. But he will not be confined to his assigned role.

I’m afraid that I saw Angelo on the wrong day and in the wrong way, so I’m not sure how much of its lack of an effect on me is due to that and how much is the film itself. It definitely does have very strong moments and is interesting in many ways, so I definitely wouldn’t discount it entirely.

Angelo as a child (Kenny Nzogang) and the countess (Alba Rohrwacher) standing next to each other. She's praying.

I didn’t pay attention and went to see the film in a German-language cinema. It’s an Austrian film after all. Unfortunately I had missed that most of the film was shot in French and so I happened to see a dubbed version which I don’t like. And it’s been a while that I saw a dubbed film at all and I just found it irritating as fuck, so it took me a while to get into the film at all.

Although in the very beginning are some of the strongest scenes of the film: the sale that becomes unmoored in time, with modern items and a modern setting suddenly breaking through the historic setting and emphasizing that we may not literally sell black people into slavery at a market anymore, but slavery is far from over. Then there was the cold way the first Angelo was replaced – and if you didn’t realize what objectification of a human being looks like, this is basically the epitome of it. It definitely carries a punch.

Angelo (Makita Samba) in a costume, performing.

Once Angelo grows up, I did struggle with the film a little. This may not be the film’s fault. I saw it after the second day at my new job and I had severely underestimated how tired I would be. So I did fall asleep in the middle part. If I had been entirely in the film, this probably wouldn’t have happened, but it definitely wasn’t the case that the film was so boring or bad that I was glad to sleep. In any case, there’s a chunk in the middle missing for me that I couldn’t consider in this review, so please keep that in mind.

What I did see of it was beautifully shot and the ending, much like the beginning, carries a punch again: after Angelo dies, he is stuffed and kept as an exhibition piece in a natural history collection, to complete the objectification that he fought all his life. When the collection finally burns down fifty years later, he is finally released in a way. It may seem like an overwritten, exaggerated ending – but Angelo Soliman was a real person and this did really happen to him.

Considering the many good things I saw, I have to leave room for the possibility that I would have loved it had I seen it on any other day. But under the circumstances, I did remain underwhelmed.

Angelo (Makita Samba) looking angry.

Summarizing: Not as good as I thought it would be.

2 thoughts on “Angelo (2018)

  1. I had a similar reaction, without falling asleep ;). For me, I guess the main problem was that we never really seem to get to know the real Angelo behind the facade. Which I guess was the intention, to emphasize the loss of identity that comes along with what he endured, but I’m afraid it makes for a rather uninteresting protagonist that I had trouble building any kind of connection to. Just my 2 cents.

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