Angela Schanelec: To Burn, But Differently

Winner of the Silver Bear for Best Director at the 2019 Berlin International Film Festival for I Was At Home, But..., Angela Schanelec has cemented her place in the pantheon of contemporary filmmakers. Wander into the distinctive universe that is Schanelec's cinema.

The title of our focus on the work of the celebrated Berlin School filmmaker, almost all of whose films here are presented in new restorations, springs from a line by Czech writer Bohumil Hrabal. His words are spoken by Schanelec herself in her documentary portrait Prague, March 92 (1992), originally written about the student martyr Jan Pallach, who set himself on fire in the city in 1968:

If I was with him then, I would go down on my knees and ask him to burn, but differently: to burn through the word that would turn into flesh, in order to help those who don’t yet burn, or only do so through the spirit and in spirit.

There is a powerful blaze that rages at the edges of Schanelec's cinema. On the surface, these are quiet, slow worlds where people go about their everyday business, where passions are sublimated, where loss and grief are all around but which rarely burst out into the open. Tuning into the specific frequency these films operate on might take some time, but if you can do it, you will be rewarded abundantly. Schanelec's is a more idiosyncratic kind of cinematic passion: a flame that burns differently, but burns like nothing else.

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