For a better experience on MUBI, update your browser.

Josef Dabernig Introduces His Film “Stabat Mater”

The Austrian visual artist introduces his short film that competed at the 64th International Short Film Festival Oberhausen.
In collaboration with the International Short Film Festival Oberhausen, Josef Dabernig's Stabat Mater (2016) is showing exclusively on MUBI from June 29 - July 29, 2017 as part of the series Competing at Oberhausen.
Let me start with some subjective impact and personal implications in reference to this film.
Both partners of my camera operator and one artist friend were working in their younger years at the same modeling agency and are now mothers of children around 10 years old. This triggered in me the concept of a tribute to the mother in the sense that former photo models are conditioned by their children towards a shift in responsibility and social acceptance.
Contemporaneous to these reflections on sorrowful mothers, my long-term director of photography Christian Giesser was encouraging me to shoot in southern Italy, recalling our work in the region for Jogging (2000) and Lancia Thema (2005). That called back my memory from 20 years ago of a remote spa resort on the east coast of Apulia—a weird place with some Oriental-inspired buildings against the backdrop of virtually sculptural cliff formations constituting a huge natural bathing pool. A location visit revealed a proper site for accommodation and indoor shootings in the form of a hotel, left over architecture in the monumental style of the fascist era.
The mothers and children in the film are played by the former models and their children, and the cast was completed by my wife as grandmother along with our grandson. Additional cast members were the above mentioned friend and me in the role of waiters, my brother’s presence joined by the spa’s secretary and a special appearance by the hotel director. By name, these are Sabine and Emma Gruber, Kathrin and Laurence Schulz, Isabella Hollauf and Otto Dabernig, Markus Scherer, Wolfgang Dabernig, Immacolata Giuseppa Cozza and Gaetano Milone.
The formal approach was a concise implementation of the interior/exterior dialectic into the plot.
Acoustically, this should be underlined inside with an organ etude by Christoph Herndler based on one of Schubert’s Stabat Mater themes. The outside shots—following a landscape picture ductus and only in the closing scenes opening up to the cast—are underscored by a narrative voice reciting a text penned by Bruno Pellandini. It is, after Rosa coeli (2003) and Herna (2010), my third attempt to work with the same writer on a sort of double-narration, where picture and text narrations follow unlinked paths.
In a structural sense one could say that the mother-child (non-)relationship finds an equivalent in an inside-outside dialectic, and on the level of sound the sad organ play finds its counterpoint in an allegedly displaced pessimist text. I wouldn’t go further to state my approach to an assembly of narrative fragments playing with the balance of correlations and contradictions in a formal context of geometry and structure. Perhaps—with a grotesque undertone—one could say that the geometry of love in Stabat Mater is imagined as the geometry of the cold and of death.
Although very nicely thought and put I found it ending up in nothing or with a question that I don´t think is a prodictive one, but more like, what was this. To begin with I nearly gave up, but when I discovered that both the breakfeast-room and the outdoor landscape develpoed into somethng interesting imagewise, I continued to watch. But the narrated story was in constant conflict with the images, giving me the unpleasant choice of looking at or listen to. I do respect filmmakers that try to tell stories differently, and this one is of the more sucksessful ones, after all. But all togehter I think we filmmakers have a tendency to think thaht modernism or the modernist approach to filmmaking is of a higher value compared to that of traditional narration. Which II think is a misunderstanding. Whatever form or structure you use you need to succeed in guiding the audience in the right direction and make them comfortable about what they are seeing. It is maybe easier in a classic storytelling. But either you do it this or that way, you have to make it precise and good, which is of course always difficult whatever form.
It's an interesting point you raise, Trygve, and I'm glad you gave the film a chance. However, I must disagree with your assertion that a filmmaker or artist "need[s] to succeed in guiding the audience in the right direction and make them comfortable about what they are seeing." There can be a great stimulation or provocation in misdirection and discomfort, even in mainstream filmmaking. Considering the overwhelming dominance of what you call traditional narration in film culture, I am confident that that most practitioners place higher value on that style of narration, and that what you call a modernist approach is, so many decades after its inception, still maligned or disregarded by practitioners and audiences alike.
Mr Kasman is right. This narrative dislocation or discomfort is the film's structure. The Stabat Mater music put me in mind of Godard's short included in Aria. And I am weak--music tends to immediately build a narrative whether intended by the filmmaker or not. This film is indeed, for my taste's, more memorable and thought provoking than the Ande's volcano film. But I'd add that watching film is reason enough for me--entertainment is not required, but something to provoke is a necessary evil to keep me from taking off or fast forwarding.

Please to add a new comment.

Previous Features