Meyer directs and edits Angel Applicant with the utmost proficiency and intention. He openly discusses the debilitating effects of scleroderma in terms of physical and emotional well-being. Meyer utilizes a mannequin in several scenes as a substitute for himself, depicting how he sees himself and potentially how others see him in public. This element could have been underutilized or overly relied on.
Thankfully, Meyer finds the right balance and thinks carefully about every composition and edit. There is a graceful overhead shot of the mannequin lying on the floor in pieces that really strikes a chord. There are motivated cuts between paintings and subjects that add visual contrast and weight. For instance, an extreme close-up of Meyer’s eye is followed by an extreme close-up of a painting figure’s eye (even the music is synchronized to the cut), exhibiting the filmmaker’s immersion into Klee’s work.
“…thinks carefully about every composition and edit.”
The fact that Meyer’s form of scleroderma is life-threatening does emanate uncertainty about a guaranteed tomorrow. But an appropriate amount of apprehension can put you in the right headspace to appreciate every moment, no matter how small or fugacious. There are sequences where Meyer can’t help but ponder the cause of the disease and the success rate of treatments and surgeries. “Chronic illness breeds chronic uncertainty.” But he goes for a more uplifting tone, charting how he got married, had a child, and continues to live well beyond what was expected from medical professionals, given the severity of his condition. Meyer always focuses on what and who he has in his life to grant him joy and purpose.
We eventually learn that the title, Angel Applicant, is named after Klee’s 1939 work. Sifting through Klee’s work with a critical eye, Meyer unearths truths pertaining to coping with illness and hardship. With unflinching honesty and ardor, this soul-stirring, wonderfully offbeat documentary reminds you of the power of family, positive thinking, and art. Demonstrating filmmaking prowess, Meyer is indeed an artist and already an extraordinary human being.
Angel Applicant screened at the 2023 SXSW Film Festival.
"…reminds you of the power of family, positive thinking, and art."