In Absentia

2000

Action / Animation

4
Rotten Tomatoes Audience - Upright 88%
IMDb Rating 0 10 0

Synopsis


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12hr 0 min
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English
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Movie Reviews

Reviewed by sunheadbowed 8 / 10

A strangely beautiful abstract calligraphy of psychosis.

By far one of the Quay Brothers' most haunting works, 'In Absentia' depicts the suffering of a late nineteenth/early twentieth century mental asylum patient, Emma Hauck, who would write letters to her husband by pencil over and over on the same piece of paper, until the sheet resembled a strangely beautiful abstract calligraphy of psychosis -- an unintentional work of art. That the letters' sense of hopeless, desperate scrawling depicts an eternal reaching into the void for her husband to rescue her from herself -- a relief that could never arrive -- is chilling.

The use of light in the black and white film is exquisite, flashing like lightning or electrical charges -- as if Hauck's overheating and tortured brain were illuminating secrets in the darkness that sanity seeks to hide from us for our own preservation. The repetition of the breaking pencil represents the 'brokenness' and futility of her own mind, which is trapped in a hopeless cycle.

Karlheinz Stockhausen composed the music for 'In Absentia', creating the ideal musique concrète score of ambient voices, rupture, madness and unreality. Stockhausen, who was reduced to tears when viewing the film, being reminded of his mother who was exterminated by the Nazis, suggested that, in a role reversal, he had written the images and the Brothers Quay had created the music.

The dress worn by Alice Krige's neurotic headmistress who suffers a breakdown and dies in the Quay Brothers' 1995 film 'Institute Benjamenta' returns in this film, in a suggestion of psychological continuity.

Reviewed by Thomas ([email protected]) 4 / 10

Extremely experimental

"In Absentia" is a 19-minute black-and-white short film and even if it is already 15 years old, it is one of the later works of the Quay Brothers. What you hear and what you see in here, but especially hear, will not be congruent or make any sense whatsoever, but it is a film that has the intention to evoke certain thoughts and feelings in you that you will not have while watching "normal" films. This is also an accurate description for most of the Quay's other projects. I personally did not enjoy watching this experimental film too much. I have seen some of their other works and I find them (slightly) superior. However, I must say I am not a big fan of experimental movies and maybe that is why this one here (just like most of their other works) didn't do too much for me really. As a whole, i do not recommend the watch unless you really love this very specific genre.

Reviewed by debbystardust 7 / 10

insensitive

I feel the film focuses on this woman's "crazy" behavior - that her actions were sad and pointless. The point of her behavior, and this is based on a real person, was perhaps to let her doctors know that she wanted out. let me out, let me out, she was shouting. And she was ignored. This woman, in real life, had small children, had a breakdown and perhaps would have recovered under the right circumstances (this is according to German Wikipedia). Maybe her husband would have helped her get out of the asylum if he had not died. She was stuck forever. Her way of retaining hope was to focus on her husband coming to her rescue. Perhaps it was a form of sanity in a hopeless existence. That being said, it is a haunting film and its imagery is powerful.

Maybe filmmakers should focus on a person ascending into sanity, which is probably just as painful as remaining stuck in insanity. I would like to see such a film.

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