German director Fred Kelemen is a new name for us. When you start watching Abendland, the first thing that grips your attention is the very striking nature of the visual, images that bring alive a tangible gloom. The visual are a courtesy of the director Kelemen himself, who has also undertaken the script and editing. Starting with, presumably a dole queue with an artificial light at the very end, we meet our main character Anton, ill-treats a lady official who wouldn’t listen to him. Anton is unemployed, one of many in this unspecified German town on the Polish border, and has a girl-friend named Leni who works at a laundry. All the gloom, melancholy, loneliness, the occasional horror aside, this in fact, is their story. They’re at that point in their relationship where love has receded and is about to end. Anton is much too distant while Leni tries to save what remains, begs him to admit his love. Still, it looks as if there’s something worth saving. As for destitute Nina, there’s no love but maybe a remembrance: “Remember, Paul, that time when you almost cried?” Anton and Leni go out one night, when neither wanted to go out in the first place, they take their independent paths, meet people, hurt each other, hurt themselves and come back at dawn, in light. They leave the physical darkness behind, but have as much to face as they did in the previous evening. Abendland, screened at the 1999 Venice Film Festival, introduces us to a form of life and cast of characters that may be a little hard to take. The story of the little child in red and the pederasts is horrific, but not surreal. It’s much too real, like every nightmare. As for the part where Anton is mugged on the train, the terrific (and interesting) part about it was that those who attacked him did not flee the train but sat down right next to him and went on with the journey. Still, it’s not a nightmare Kelemen wants us to face. It’s the abyss, which everyone knows exists but would rather deny the existence of. Because, like Nietzche said if you look too long into an abyss, the abyyss looks into you. For those who are not afraid of being frightened, Kelemen looks into the abyss and finds something to cherish, at least to tell about, in all that nothingness. Sevin Okyay


Fred Kelemen

Fred Kelemen

Fred Kelemen

Anja Neraal
Fred Kelemen
Nicola Undritz Cope

Mediopolis Berlin

Adolfo Assor
Isa Hochgerner
Thomas Baumann
Urs Remond
Verena Jasch
Wolfgang Michael

Rainer Kirchmann

FIPRESCI Prize Thessaloniki; Best Film Gijon; Aurora Prize Tromsö

6th Festival on Wheels