Austria 2015 - 2018 / HD - DCP / black and white / 16:9 / 3.1 mono / running time: 136 min. (25f/s)
cast: Giuliana Pachner, Awad Elkish, Hermann Krejcar, Sandu Petre Boitan, Omar Taha
scenario, realisation, cinematography, editing, sound design: Peter Schreiner
sound recording: Johannes Schmelzer-Ziringer
assistant producer, consulting editor: Maria Schreiner
assistant camera, lighting: Zakaria Mohamed Ali, Motahar Azizi
assistant realisation: Sandra Spindler
assistant CamDolly Cinema System: Zabiullah Ibrahimi, Isabella Schreiner
production: Peter Schreiner Filmproduktion - echt.zeit.film
supported by The Arts Division of the Federal Chancellery of Austria - Innovative Film Austria,
Vienna City Administration, cultural department
world distribution: echtzeitfilm
48th International Film Festival Rotterdam / The Netherlands
This film is dedicated to our libyan friend Awad Elkish, who died unexpected in Tripolis, 28th of october
We are very sad to have lost a decades-long confidant, who applied his energies a whole lifetime to understanding between arabic and european culture.
A film within a film.
Julia finds out she is suffering from a life threatening disease.
Awad, the film director, was kidnapped by the militia, kept imprisoned and tortured.
Herman, the stage designer, is plagued by nightmares.
Sandu, the gardener, spent his childhood living in institutional homes.
Omar fled the inferno of the Syrian war with his wife and children.
A garden becomes a stage for its protagonists and a childhood paradise – a nightmare, a prison, and a scene of war.
Film im Film.
Julia hat erfahren, dass sie an einer lebensbedrohenden Krankheit leidet.
Briefe an alte Freunde. Eine Einladung. Ein Filmprojekt.
Awad, der Regisseur, ist von Milizen entführt, gefangen gehalten und gefoltert worden.
Hermann, der Bühnenbildner, wird von Albträumen gequält.
Sandu, der Gärtner, hat seine Kindheit in Heimen verbracht.
Omar kommt direkt aus dem syrischen Kriegsinferno.
Ein Garten wird für die ProtagonistInnen Bühne und Kindheits-Paradies, Albtraum, Gefängnis und Kriegsschauplatz.
an intermediate world of peace and quiet
It seems to be an intermediate world of peace and quiet, the garden and country house where four people look back on testing lives.
And forward, to the time they have left. On the one hand, there is regret – on the other, satisfaction.
In a way, they are looking forward to the future – but at the same time, a longing for death regularly arises.
And who is actually behind the camera? Are we watching actors or real people? Is there really any difference?
Garten is full of contradictions – it is not until the credits roll that we realise who these people from very different backgrounds are.
In the meantime, Austrian director Peter Schreiner lulls the audience with the sound of crickets and bells, and above all with the black-and-white compositions
which, thanks to the high contrast, come across with intoxicating beauty.
Hypnotically calm, the camera glides past musings, quarrels and dreams.
A deep dive into lonely, torn lives, in which time seems to have frozen.
(International Film Festival Rotterdam 2019)
in a purgatorial place
Peter Schreiners cinema is one too little known in English-speaking film world, despite its existence as capital-A art-cinema, existing in the same world of
demanding — but highly rewarding — formalism as director’s like Béla Tarr, who works on a more expansive scale, and Pedro Costa, whose intimate productions bare a very superficial
Yet Schreiner is not nearly as hip in the culture; perhaps because his films are rooted in documentary (though, so too are Costa’s), perhaps because he is from Austria (where there Can Be Only One: Michael Haneke), and perhaps because of the degree to which Schreiner boldly takes his very real subjects and risks abstracting them as people and their turmoil as humans to a level beyond the surface and the obvious, in attempt to reach something more elevated, more profound.
I realize this sounds pretentious, and indeed a film like Garden, Schreiner’s latest, is vulnerable and fragile to such concerns: while its three main characters are based on real people of the same name and background, Schreiner fictionalizes their stories, collaborating with them to create a floating world where inner life and external drama blend into utterances and pronouncements of longing and lamentation.
On its most basic level, it tells of a love triangle between Awad, a Lybian migrant in Vienna, and Hermann, a Viennese artist, with Julia, the woman who both claim is the love of their lives. That lost romance is an invention, but all three are real people with backgrounds that feed into the world Schreiner creates — yet that world bares little resemblance to reality: the film takes place in an unidentified garden during the day and night (mostly eerie, moonlit night) and indeterminate interior rooms of a home, and both places have that oneiric vagueness of a dream, nightmare, a state of limbo or a conjuring. Indeed, the garden of the title seems metaphorical, a place of memory, a place of fantasy, a place of purgatory between living and death.
In its feeling of inescapablility, it is perhaps even a hell, but all in all, this netherspace is one in which Awad and Hermann pine for Julia, recount their lost opportunity of love, and Julia gradually asserts her own story of struggle and self-doubt.
If all this sounds abstruse, especially for a (kind of a) documentary, indeed it is.
Schreiner very beautifully shoots in the highest of contrast black and whites, tracking his camera back and forth before his subjects as they utter pronouncements of misery, of doubt, of questioning, and of longing, and we are unmoored in both space and time.
These may be real people, but their expressions, and Schreiner’s evocation of them, are hardly of fact and figures.
Rather, Garden is after a revelation of the soul. This is where the film’s risk comes from, its danger and it accomplishment. I myself don’t recognize my soul within it, or necessarily understand a great deal of what the three say, but I most definitely see and am often awed by recognizing the soul in these people. “You have to wrest a secret from life,” says Awad, who part way through Garden expresses his wish to make a film, perhaps one about his relationship to Julia and Hermann — perhaps make the film we are watching. (We see a camera lens face us from time to time, and indeed, is what we’re seeing Schreiner’s film, or one imagined by the people in it?)
The pacing is a morass, tarlike. We are stuck in this so-called garden, this not-now, not-reality with three people who struggle to articulate and define their
ardor and their despair. Hermann suggests all three are acting parts, and indeed they are, real people, real backgrounds, soul-riffing in some way or another. Awad despairs as Hermann leaves his
film midway through shooting — or is it Hermann the man himself who leaves Schreiner’s project, for he indeed disappears from Garden for a while? “Who am I when I don’t play?” asks Julia.
The planes of existence are blurred and it matters not, only the doubt, the wondering and the residue that remains. This may not be what we understand conventionally as “real” in the cinema, but it feels like a direct transmission from these three and from Schreiner to us, something laid exposed and sore before the audience. When describing his film project, Awad says that “unseen images should become visible.” He’s talking of the metaphysics of cinema, yes, but also very practically too: we see him, Julia and Hermann in the raw, emerging from darkness in a purgatorial place where they question their lives, doubt their motives, lament and long for love and deliverance.
They are so vivid and exposed it feels almost painful for these three to be on camera, to try to speak, to give voice to their spirit.
And it is by admitting to this difficulty, which indeed can also be difficult to watch, and by showing it ardently, that Garden speaks real truths.
(Daniel Kasman, MUBI - Notebook Festival)
wie im Traum
Ich erinnere mich nicht daran, jemals einen Film gesehen zu haben, der so sehr Film ist und gleichzeitig so sehr nicht (mehr) Film ist, sondern etwas, das sich mir beim Erleben direkt, unmittelbar einprägt, wie im Traum.
GARTEN ist von einer derart komplexen filmischen Struktur, die auf allen filmischen Ebenen wirkt , und zwar derart "schnell", dass ich mich dem direkten
Erleben nicht entziehen, sondern mich ihm "bedingungslos" hingeben konnte, musste, durfte.
GARTEN ist das traumhafteste je im Kino Erlebte.
Peter Schreiner ist es gelungen, eine filmische Sprache zu finden, die direkt das Unbewusste anspricht, es animiert, "zur Sprache bringt".
Das tut die sanfte Bewegung, das Gleiten der Kamera. das tut die "Nacht", das tut das künstliche Licht, das tut die gesprochene Sprache, die nie ganz ausspricht, was ohnehin nicht auszusprechen ist. Das tut der Ton, der so "nicht in der Welt" ist, der so nur im Traum erscheint,
und das tun die Akteure! Ich neige zu Superlativen, wenn ich an sie denke.
Ich liebe sie alle, in ihrer "Unvollständigkeit", in ihrer oftmals Unbeholfenheit, in ihrem Suchen nach den Worten, nach den Gesten, den Haltungen, für ihre Gefühle, für das oft eben Unaussprechliche, in ihrem Ringen um etwas Fassbares, Haltbares, um das Gemeinsame oder auch nur um die Illusion dessen.
(Michael Pilz, August 2018)
Sandu Petre Boitan
Judith und Luise Zdesar
as well as
Sidi and Dido
special thanks to:
Maria and Cosmas Okeke
and to the anonym guitar player
at the Viennese 'Nordbahnhof'- area
assistance camera / lighting / technics:
Zakaria Mohamed Ali
assistance CamDolly Cinema System:
assistance realisation / photos:
team-support and coaching:
additional sound-recording 2009 / 2015 / 2016:
sound recording and controlling:
sound-design / sound-editing / sound-mixing
final inspection sound-mix / DCP - sound:
grading / digital effects:
Digital Cinema Package:
scenario / realisation / cinematography / editing:
production assistance / editing consulting:
production / distribution:
echtzeitfilm - Peter Schreiner Filmproduktion
© 2015 / 2018
The Arts Division of the Federal Chancellery of Austria,
Department II / 3 - Film
Vienna City Administration,
The drawings and outlines are intellectual property of Hermann Krejcar
The painting used in the film is a copy from 'The Concert' by Tizian (Tiziano Vecellio) made by Anna Lenassi
The poem 'Syria' in arabian language is intellectual property of Omar Taha
Texts from the following plays were quoted:
William Shakespeare, As You Like It, translation by August Wilhelm Schlegel,
in: Shakespeare's dramatische Werke. Bd. 4, Johann Friedrich Unger, Berlin 1799
William Shakespeare, Hamlet, translation by August Wilhelm Schlegel,
in: Shakespeare's dramatische Werke Bd. 3, Johann Friedrich Unger, Berlin 1798
William Shakespeare, Macbeth, translation by Dorothea Tieck, http://www.william-shakespeare.de
and from memory cited by Hermann Krejcar:
excerpt from Friedrich Schiller, Der Künstler (1788)
Peter Schreiner wants to give thanks to all the contributors
for their great commitment and support, which made the production of the film possible.
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english / german subtitled or without subtitles
Audio: 2-channels (mono)
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GARDEN at FilmFreeway
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(photography: Sandra Spindler)
graphic: Leo Schreiner
photography: Sandra Spindler
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