Mater Superior [Mother Superior] (2022)

Mater Superior
Director: Marie Alice Wolfszahn
Writer: Marie Alice Wolfszahn
Cast: Isabella Händler, Inge Maux, Jochen Nickel, Tim Werths
Part of: SLASH Filmfestival
Seen on: 29.9.2022

1975. Sigrun (Isabella Händler) has taken a job as the private nurse for Baroness Heidenreich (Inge Maux). The Baroness is an eccentric character and lives with her groundskeeper Otto (Jochen Nickel) all alone in an out-of-the-way manor. In any case, Sigrun has her own reasons for wanting to work with the Baroness: she used to run a home for single mothers during World War 2 and Sigrun hopes that the Baroness can shed some light on her mother who must have had her in that home. But there is something going on in the manor that seems rather inexplicable.

Mother Superior is a well-made film on an interesting topic – the parallels and combinations of occultism, nazism and feminism. I thought that the ending takes a wrong turn, but until then I enjoyed the film a lot.

The film poster showing the silhouette profile of a woman. It is throwing a different shadow that is smoking a cigarette.

We got to see the world premiere of Mother Superior, Wolfszahn’s debut fiction feature. So there was a short Q&A afterwards where she basically gave her mission statement on the film: what a strong effect pure belief or superstition can have, and how “good and bad ideology” are often thoroughly entangled. Both of these statements I can whole-heartedly agree with. In fact, I’d say that wanting a “purely good ideology” is already a rather fascist mindset. And certainly, the role of feminism within nazism is worthy of examination and critique. We still see it with the extreme right today who will champion women causes when it serves them – like having women leaders that make their deadly program appear softer. Or protesting against gender-based violence when the perpetrators are men of color. I would even say that the film could have delved more deeply into the co-conspirator/perpetrator status of white women.

So, the film certainly tackles a super-interesting topic that I have also given some thought to before. And it was interesting to see how Sigrun’s journey of self-discovery became so very entangled with the liberation that the occult feminism the Baroness promises, how she loses sight of the harmful parts of that because she is so focused on herself. And it was definitely great in how it showed the continuity, how nazism finds its way into more modern times, into the now. How the corona conspiracy theorists today are made from the same stuff.

Sigrun (Isabella Händler) approaching the Baroness' estate.

But I did struggle with the ending, too, because it seems to prove the nazis right in what they believe. They actually have occult powers. It’s not just mysticism and superstition. And I would have rather had a film that doesn’t give nazis supernatural powers. Also, it got a little long towards the end there.

Apart from that, though, I thought that Mother Superior was really good: they had an excellent location, a great cast and wonderful sounddesign. Despite being Austrian myself, I was pretty glad that we got subtitles because the film often shows text on screen and I consistently read the wrong parts of it – thanks to the subtitles, though, I got the important information. But that is really the biggest (technical) flaw to an otherwise extremely solid fiction debut.

Sigrun (Isabella Händler) walking through the manor at night.

Summarizing: very good.

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