There are moments of sharp, brittle, deadpan humour in Austrian filmmaker Ulrich Seidl’s powerful, bleak, ironic and relentlessly downbeat film Import/Export; three scenes were especially reminiscent of the palette & tone in Roy Andersson’s fabulous ‘Grandeur of Existence Trilogy’ – a man trying in futility to kick-start a bike, two men silently shadow-boxing in a cramped room, a woman dancing with an old man to a melancholic tune in an empty basement hall. The movie’s two key protagonists are social outsiders who make complementary journeys in the parallel narratives – Olga (Ekateryna Rak), a single mother residing in a monstrous apartment block in crumbling post-Communist Ukraine, who scrapes her living as a nurse and an inept webcam sex worker, takes the difficult decision to leave behind her kid and relocate to Vienna with the hope of a better life – only to experience arbitrary discrimination, hostility and despair, initially as a housemaid and thereafter, in the film’s most deeply poignant sections, as a janitor in a geriatric hospital; Pauli (Paul Hofmann), on the other hand, is a gauche Austrian guy indebted to practically everyone, who, upon losing his job as a security guard upon being humiliated by a gang of hooligans, and then not making anything out of a series of sadly funny motivational sessions, joins his greasy stepfather (Michael Thomas) in a trip to Ukraine to sell outdated candy and arcade gaming machines, only to experience the nadir of the latter’s grotesqueness. The film, shot in static shots and a spare style that gave it a stark look, provided a disconcerting view on the sordidness of being compelled to follow the money trail – be it as a dispossessed immigrant or an aimless drifter.
Director: Ulrich Seidl
Genre: Drama/Social Satire/Black Comedy