(out of 5)
Harrowing drama that charts the difficulties of people simply trying to get by in two European countries. Olga lives a life without hope in the freezing cold Ukraine; when the opportunity comes to go work in Austria as a cleaning lady, she takes it. Paul can’t hold down a job in Vienna, constantly broke and always in trouble, so when his stepfather tells him to join him on a business trip selling arcade games in the Ukraine, he goes along with him and sees the possibility in the change of pace. The experiences these characters undergo are quite harsh, and director Ulrich Seidl does not shy away from them: Olga has sex on webcams to raise money for her trip, while Paul’s encounters with a variety of rough personalities are given in graphic detail. Two and a half hours of strife might be a bit too much for some audiences, and its explicit nature will turn some off, but the film is genuinely interested in bringing to light how much humans make other humans suffer (Olga’s snooty employers are quite the trip). While the feeling it produces cannot specifically be called entertaining, the film is not outwardly exploitative and has enough moments of kindness and grace to make it rewarding.
Directed by Ulrich Seidl
Screenplay by Urlich Seidl, Veronika Franz
Music by Roman Gottwald
Costume Design by Silvia Pernegger
Film Editing by Christof Schertenleib
Cannes Film Festival: 2007