Review Date: May 16, 2004
Director: Jessica Hausner
Writer: Jessica Hausner
Producers: Antonin Svoboda, Phillippe Bober
Franziska Weisz as Irene
Birgit Minichmayr as Petra
Marlene Streeruwitz as Frau Mascheck
A shy, buttoned up girl gets a gig at a secluded hotel and must deal with the rest of the staff's very regimented and controlling behavior. She's not sure what the deal is with the hotel, but soon finds out that her predecessor disappeared under odd circumstances and that the lodge is located near a legendary witch cave. Suspense and thrills ensue, right? Wrong! This is a European film, after all...think subtext, i.e. nothing happens. Bugh.
Redundancy thy name is HOTEL. Anti-climactic endings thy name too, is HOTEL. European bore with a decent beginning, a hottie Austrian chick as the lead who does nothing but walk around for 83 minutes, thy name is HOTEL as well. All in all, this is the exact kind of movie that I was afraid to be seeing a lot of while at the Cannes Film Festival, the kind of movie that seems to have a decent premise, but uses it solely as groundwork on which to compound scenes of nothingness on top of nothingness, all of which add up to no story whatsoever, and yeah...plenty of nothingness. Here's the basic movie in a nutshell, folks. A timid woman gets a job at a strange hotel at which most of the people working are weird. She finds out that the woman before her disappeared under strange circumstances and spends the rest of the film walking about, doing menial tasks like looking through the basement, swimming in the pool and going to the local bar to dance. There is a mention of a "witch" in the woods at some point, but barely worth even mentioning here, since nothing is really done with it. She loses her necklace at another point, but then it's found later on. I don't mind a 10-minute build-up, a 20-minute build-up, heck...I'll even give you a whole 40 minutes to set things up nicely (as the film does to a certain extent here with nice cinematography, set design and use of the sound of silence), but c'mon...gimme a story at least!
In the end (which is thankfully only 83 minutes away), I just couldn't wait for the repetitiveness to end with various scenes feeling very deja-vu, leading me to question what any of it meant-if anything! To add insult to injury, the film's conclusion was about as unsatisfying as a masturbatory session with no release, which now that I think about it...is exactly what this movie felt like as well. If that's what writer/director Jessica Hausner was going for in this one-note so-called "thriller" that actually has no thrills of which to speak, then I guess she hit her mark. Some of the basic elements for any thriller (or story, for that matter) are established early on, so that the film could go the way of a SHINING or even a BLAIR WITCH PROJECT, but ultimately the filmmaker decided to go the way of "nothing", featuring umpteen shots of the protagonist walking into dark hallways and disappearing into the darkness...over and over and over and over and over again. I'm telling you, man...this movie was frustrating as much as it went nowhere. What made it all that much worse was that once the finale was "revealed", the so-called epilogue was about as see-through as my contempt for this flick right now. Bugh, there go 83 minutes of my European trip that I'll never get back.
(c) 2016 Berge Garabedian