This is a film about how art reflects life, no hang on, it is a film about how we are affected by art, no wait, and it is a film about the kindness of strangers. To be honest this film is deliberately and delightfully open to many interpretations.
The plot seems to be a loose device to showcase the philosophical musings of the filmmaker. Anne (beautifully played by “undisciplined artist” Mary Margaret O’Hara) arrives in Vienna to see be with a sick relative and spends a lot of time hanging out at the local museum where she befriends one of the curators Johann (Robert ‘Bobby’ Summer).
The use of sound, the meditative camera, the details, the still life of the city, the voice overs by Johann all add together to give the impression the audience is itself in a museum. Writer/director Jem Cohen seems to often just be filming whatever takes his fancy; images that he finds interesting, juxtapositions of symbols, patterns, stories, parallels. He has a record of working collaboratively with musicians and the art world and there is a documentary feel to this piece. He says that he wanted to encourage viewers to make their own choices about what to pay attention to and make their own connections; an ambition I would say he has realised with this project.
Themes get repeated; hands, faces, ears as if to sear them onto our brains to make us look for patterns ourselves. The structure is very dreamlike, a reverie, images and words segueing from one thought and idea into the next.
So many questions seem to be thrown up by the film and the viewer is encouraged not just to watch but to partake. In the final few minutes we are finally explicitly shown what has been suggested to us all through the film.
I had an altered state when I left the screening; this film had genuinely opened my eyes for however short a time to my surroundings looking with a different eye at everything. I seemed to see Soho as though through a frame or lens.
See this film; if only for the brief change it can give your eyes and ears when you leave. It is worth it just for that.