Reviews of KOMA
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Koma is centred on a sadomasochistic episode in the life of Hans, a taxi-driver in the wooded town of Gablitz in Austria, which goes tragically wrong for his prostitute partner. He flees the scene, leaving her for dead.
The narcissistic celebration of perversity in the current culture meant that the two had filmed themselves in a supposedly private video, which was then probably cynically posted on the Web by one of those who discovered the nasty, brutish remains of the setting.
The film introduces us to Hans’s public world on his 50th birthday. His wife has invited close friends and neighbours for a party. They wait for two hours for him to arrive, and then proceed with the festivities anyway. Hans, meanwhile, is in a state of suspended shock and frozen horror and grief. He returns home very late, finds the house deserted amidst the remains of the party. In his room, his wife has arranged a table with the gifts that the guests had brought for him. Among them is a video CD which she had noticed in her son’s room and wrapped up without his knowledge as his gift to his father. Hans plays it and finds it to be a download of the video of the incident he has been attempting to fight and escape. The icy shock is intense.
Hans decides to leave home. Bearded, he shaves himself clean, and returns to the scene of his unpremeditated crime, a building housing prostitutes. He pays one to only talk to him, and learns that Gertrude, his partner, did not die but has been brutalized for life. He traces her down to a nursing institution, and takes on the responsibility of looking after her himself. He mothers the almost vegetative person, loves her, makes love to her, redeems himself and gives himself up to her in her service body and soul.
Koma is a difficult, lacerating portrait of a man silently aghast at his own tendencies, and of a culture that has lost its moorings and purpose. It involves long takes, one of them as long as 13 minutes, from a stationery camera, replicating the video recordings of hidden or candid cameras. There is very little dialogue; in fact the lead characters Hans and Gertrude (Nenad Smigoc and Claudia Martini) have almost none. The towering skills of their performances rest in the self-reflective inwardly existing ids of their characters.
Ludwig Wust has given us a film which is extremely personal and idiosyncratic, densely packed with meaning, difficult to unravel, defying the judgementality of prosaic understandings.