Film Review: ‘Die Kinder Der Toten’

Variety | 2/9/2019 | Jessica Kiang
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The hills are alive (or rather, undead), with the sound of music (also mastication and the moaning of zombies) in Kelly Copper and Pavol Liska’s experimental, dialogue-free, home-movie-style riff on Elfriede Jelinek’s “Die Kinder Der Toten” (The Children of the Dead). A seminal text in Jelinek’s native Austria, the 1995 book has never been translated into English, and so the directors, who are part of New York-based performance group the Nature Theater of Oklahoma were reportedly working from a sort of CliffsNotes version of this sprawling, complex, metatextual novel — one that had hitherto been dubbed “unfilmable.”

That’s an assessment barely contradicted by Copper and Liska’s tiresome adaptation, which starts out buoyantly inventive but quickly turns grating, its one-joke premise wearing thinner as the grotesquerie is layered on thicker. Initially, however, it provides an aesthetic surprise, shot in deliciously grainy Super-8 footage, set to Wolfgang Mitterer’s bizarro-folksy score and sound designer Matz Müller’s thoroughly brilliant soundscape, in which background murmuring and the succulent noises of chewing and slurping are intensified in the strict absence of spoken dialogue.

Amusement - Conversations - Exchange - Woman - Greta

And there’s amusement to be gleaned from early silent-movie-style intertitle conversations such as a scabrous exchange between a sour-faced older woman (Greta Kostka) and her unprepossessing adult daughter Karin (Andrea Maier), which ends with Mum deadpanning, “You’re just not my type as far as daughters go.” Soon, though, the novelty palls as the film’s proudly amateurish zaniness begins to feel labored.

Set in Styria, a mountainous region of Austria, in an aggressively bucolic alpine inn called the Alpenrose, the film unfolds less as a story than a ramshackle series of murky interludes. The patrons of the Alpenrose include the mutually loathing mother and daughter, an older couple that won’t stop sloppily kissing, a group of folks that finds endless hilarity in wearing pancakes on their faces,...
(Excerpt) Read more at: Variety
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