Alexander Lercher‘s VOR SEIT SCHLUSS! (2015) (Forward. Side. Close.) is the first-time feature filmmaker endearing portrait of an elderly man, Dr. Reinhard Nagl (Heinz Trixner). Nagl, a 70-year-old recluse who would like nothing more than to hide behind the walls of his Austrian castle than embrace the outside world. Lercher has comprehensively captured Trixner’s character performance with an uncanny degree of realism, despite the film’s’ lean oral narrative. Much of what is unsaid and seen in the doctor’s monotonous routine for waking for an early breakfast. His ritualistic action of turning a bedside light switch on and off, and an unvarying modus operandi for listening to music, reading and trudging the castle grounds.
Perhaps it is easy to assert that Dr. Reinhard has grown calloused about the world around him. The question here is, why? Why is he hardly appreciative of his maidservant, Ms. Heller (Sandra Lipp), or manservant, Maximilian (Julius Kuhn)? Perhaps, depression is an unfortunate formality of old age and illness may play a tremendous role in the way Nagl adheres to his self-driven mundanity. There is safeness in routine. There is an underlying longevity in isolation, and perhaps, his castle could be reflective of himself: distant, reserved, and seemingly empty.
However, for Reinhard, complacency isn’t a death sentence. It is a way of living out a life that has afforded him with nothing more than an option to ruminate the mistakes made during his long years. Luckily for Nagl, this monotony doesn’t last long. In comes his childhood friend Lorenz Zweig (Christian Futterknecht), summoned to the castle by Ms. Heller to surprise him for his birthday. Lorenz is delightfully youthful and spirited for his age and adapts to the current fashions of his granddaughter’s generation. Lorenz takes it upon himself to navigate the trends of the present in return for a great favor Reinhard did for him many years ago. In just two days, Lorenz reintroduces his old friend to the joys of life and living–and even gain interest in a few new hobbies along the way. Eventually, we learn of the reasons for Reinhard’s isolative persona. So too, learn that he was once a very kind and wise man who loved life and people around him.
In Vor. Seit Schluss, the cinematography is captivating and reflective. Many of the scenes bring about some of the most beautiful and inspiring shots. The camera isn’t always from the point of view of the central character. In these aspects, majorly in these particular scenes–the expansive views of the vast castle backdrop and impeccable greenery of the grounds as Reinhard trolls them illustrates just how lonely and isolated he is. The film isn’t shot from the perspective of the main character’s deteriorating mood–instead, the warmth environment beckons engagement. If the production instead took the opposite view and mimicked its principal characters’ persona and capricious tone, then we would be left to mull a barren cinema of an instance. Dir. Lercher brilliantly avoided this emotional subtext by visually depicting an ever constant glimmer of hope for his character, and paired it with Lorenz, Reinhard’s charismatic childhood friend. Therefore, promoting an enduring prospect for change that is very hard to accomplish if the script depended solely on great character performances.
Vor. Seit. Schluss reminds us to, at the very least, make the most out of life, never neglecting an opportunity to move forward.
Art and supplementary materials courtesy ©2015 of Alexander Lervher. All rights are reserved.