Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Film #24: Museum Hours (12)


Directed by: Jem Cohen 
Released: 2013 

My TV has finally been fixed and returned to me, so I actually have a way to watch films again! This one is only about one third German to two thirds English, but I think it still qualifies. 

Ostensibly, Museum Hours is about a Canadian woman (Mary Margaret O’Hara) who travels to Vienna when her cousin falls into a coma. Trying to fill her days, she begins to spend lots of time in the city’s art museum and befriends Johann (Bobby Sommer), one of the guards, who introduces her to the city. However, Museum Hours is not just a regular narrative, but also a travelogue and a lecture on art – sometimes implicit, sometimes explicit (one scene puts the viewer in the middle of a guest lecture in the museum). Much of the film takes place in Johann’s head, as he spends his days observing the visitors and ruminating on the meaning of art and its role in our lives. 

In fact, practically every scene in the film could be a work of art in its own right – sometimes the actors are so still that you can’t be certain whether you are looking at a painting or a scene of action. In addition, the director often follows a still of a painting with a still of the modern world. And this, I suspect, is where the film will divide the audience.  

Some people will probably hate it for stealing two hours of their life, while others will adore its quiet, contemplative observations of the beauty in the everyday world (for examples of both, have a look at the IMDb reviews). I have to admit that I found my mind drifting a couple of times, but on the whole I enjoyed it. There’s no denying that the film is beautifully shot and I found myself smiling without realising it, usually when listening to Johann’s thoughts.