Angela Schanelec’s films speak. They express personal thoughts and feelings. Although this may sound like a banal statement, it isn’t something that can be taken for granted in contemporary cinema, which is permeated by “big themes.” Her films are naked. Sounds, images, words and colors move on the screen in a determined, yet fragile way. As with a naked body, there is something obscure in these works, something that lingers between the images. Something familiar that doesn’t demand identification. A longing that doesn’t yield to romance. It is a sincere cinema of in-betweenness, of hesitation, of doubt.
The passing of time and the alienation of bourgeois life in neoliberalism have seldom found stronger expression than in Schanelec’s work. Her film Afternoon reveals the various interlocking relationships within a family. What stays in the mind, however, is the duration of an afternoon, at once peaceful and merciless. Schanelec makes time visible. Her work often revolves around family or relationships, but is never isolated from professional life, places, sociopolitical conditions, dreams and the relentless nature of time. As an actress who began her career in theater, one of the things Schanelec found in cinema was the heightened intensity of the moment. Every second counts. A bird’s cry from a treetop recounts the same fleeting sense of the absolute as a moving dance between father and daughter.
As part of a generation that found fertile ground for aesthetic and narrative innovation at the German Film and Television Academy following the fall of the Berlin Wall, Schanelec embodies a cinema that doesn’t shy away from depth. Like many great filmmakers, she operates in an environment that seems almost like a family. Friends and relatives appear in her films, and she collaborates on several projects with the same team, including Reinhold Vorschneider behind the camera and Maren Eggert in front of it.