• Meta

  • « | Home | »

    Import Export – CentEast Despair Personified

    By Ron Holloway | August 25, 2008

    Ulrich Seidl, a leading figure in Austrian cinema, whose critically acclaimed Hundstage (Dog Days) (Austria, 2001) exposed the soft underbelly of a decaying, prone-to violence bourgeois society, has now turned his attention in Import Export (Austria/France, 2007) to the challenges facing CentEast members of the European Union.

    And he hits the nail right on the head: the new European Union states have to deal with the spread of drugs, gambling, prostitution, gang beatings, you name it. In the “import” portion of the film a low-paid qualified nurse and single mother leaves the Ukraine for Vienna simply because she needs the money to support her family back home. Along the way she is subjected to assorted humiliations by uncaring employers.

    In the “export” segment an unemployed Viennese security guard, deep in debt, accepts a job delivering second-hand slot machines to Slovakia and the Ukraine. Together with his lamebrain step-father, they sink whatever they earn in sex and alcohol. Despite the rough edges in Import Export – for, as usual in Seidl’s films, some sex scenes are over-exaggerated for effect – the director’s sympathy is clearly on the side of the exploited nurse working under degrading conditions in Vienna. And the performance of Ekateryna Rak as Olga touches the heart when she steals time at a hospital for the ill and aged to sing a lullaby on the phone to her infant child back home.

    The theme of Import Export? Despair personified. That’s what makes it hard to overlook or forget this film – one of the highwater marks of the 2007 Cannes competition.

    – Ron Holloway

    Topics: Film Reviews | Comments Off on Import Export – CentEast Despair Personified

    Comments are closed.