A punchy debut from Austrian director Sebastian Meise, Stillleben falls neatly in line with the cold, clinical work of renowned Austrian masters such as Michael Haneke or Michael Glawogger. Yet, it also offers a beating heart as it traces the emotional fallout in a small-town family as son Bernhard (Christoph Luser) finds out the secret desires of his woodworker father Gerhard (Fritz Hörtenhuber). It's somewhat of a spoiler to explain the nature of said secret - revealed a third of the way into the film's short but expertly paced running time - but suffice to say the nature of the revelation shakes the family to its core, and forces Bernhard and his sister Lydia (Daniela Golpashin) to completely reevaluate both their bond as siblings and the nature of the family exchanges.

     Mr. Meise is at its best when he is silently navigating the way things can turn on a dime; the scenes of the four relatives going about their lives with the world around them behaving as if nothing has changed are remarkable, as is the use of long, static takes and total absence of music. While all of this does fit in with the "Austrian house style", Stillleben doesn't succumb entirely to the distant theatre of cruelty present in the works of Mssrs. Haneke and Glawogger, as its choice of letting the emotions of all involved guide the story does wonders for the film's warmth and helps it sidestep the predictable courses the narrative might have taken.

Fritz Hörtenhuber, Christoph Luser, Daniela Golpashin, Roswitha Soukup, Anja Plaschg. 
     Director, Sebastian Meise; screenplay, Thomas Reider, Mr. Meise, from a story by Mr. Reider; cinematography, Gerald Kerkletz (color, processing by Listo Videofilm); music, Soap&Skin (Ms. Plaschg); designers, Katharina Wöppermann, Anja Ronacher; costumes, Ms. Wöppermann; editor, Julia Drack; producers, Oliver Neumann, Erich Lackner, Thomas Pridnig, Peter Wirthensohn (Freibeuter Film and Lotus Film), Austria, 2011, 77 minutes.
     Screened: IndieLisboa 2012 advance screener, Lisbon, April 11th 2012. 


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