Barbara Albert’s Free Radicals unravels like an Austrian Short Cuts, except there’s no humanity buried beneath the life-is-bleak passages of the film. Muna (Kathrin Resetarits) miraculously survives a plane crash after a happy-go-“Macarena” vacation in Brazil. Six years and countless techno clubs later, she dies in a car crash that leaves a young teen crippled for life. If Albert didn’t so whorishly allow the grotesqueries of her characters’ lives to trump all emotional introspection, the lack of connective tissue between individual stories could have been read as some sort of substantial exercise in montage. Not unlike Ulrich Seidl’s Dog Days (also from Austria), Free Radicals is a hideous compilation reel of lower-class malaise: a girl with major white heads on her face is tormented by the kids at school; a woman reveals she’s pregnant to the man that may be the father of her baby (the clincher: she’s smoking and drinking while spilling the beans); a perpetually coked-out floozy is beaten with a crutch by a one-legged man who fucks her (Is he her husband? Is he her father? Does it matter?); and Muna’s little girl refuses to play Ten Little Negroes (apparently an Austrian variant of playground games like Bluebird and London Bridge) in the classroom. Albert so sharply transitions between scenes that it takes some time to figure out that the film’s underprivileged characters are all connected somehow, and two hours are not enough time to understand the film’s legion of lost souls. Perhaps Albert knows that, which explains why there’s so little subtext to anything that happens. Free Radicals is pieced together entirely from a series of embarrassments from which we’re supposed to glean something about the horrors of these people’s lives. But the only horror here is Albert’s misanthropic gaze. One character violently has sex with two of the film’s women; a junkie drinks milk to cleanse her insides (and later throws a tantrum at a mall); and a lonely older woman with a black daughter tries to end her life but only loses a leg (ouch!). A series of ludicrous and pretentious exercises carried out inside a New Age theater-psych classroom undercut the film’s soap operas and seemingly exist to address the film’s hang-ups with fate, but it’s all specious white noise.
- Kino International
- 120 min
- Barbara Albert
- Barbara Albert
- Kathrin Resetarits, Ursula Strauss, Georg Friedrich, Marion Mitterhammer, MartinBrambach, Rupert M. Lehofer, Bellinda Akwa-Asare, Gabriela Schmoll, Christian Ghera, Karl Fischer, Désirée Ourada, Dominik Hartel, Nicole Skala, Deborah Ten Brink, Alfred Worel
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