Razzennest Image


By Bradley Gibson | October 7, 2022

Austrian indie filmmaker Johannes Grenzfurthner has done it again with his wildly original horror-comedy Razzennest. It’s a layered, hands-on experience for the audience. The conceit of this unusual film is that we are listening to the recording sessions of the commentary track for a documentary called Razzennest. In the audio, we are introduced to South African indie filmmaker Manus Oosthuizen (Michael Smulik), accompanied by a sycophant film critic named Babette Cruickshank (Sophie Kathleen Kozeluh) in an Echo Park sound studio.

The cast members and the critic are deferential to Oosthuizen, despite his infantile behavior. He’s a name-dropping twit with an inflated sense of importance. In his defense, the critic displays a typical American cluelessness about the subject of Oosthuizen’s film, the Thirty Years War, and her lack of education about it enrages him. The conversation starts as a collection of pretentious cinema adjectives and overwrought faux-arty pronouncements. As the commentary spools out, what begins as a somewhat chaotic recording session devolves into pure horror when elements of the past seem to seep into the present.

Just as we are shaking off the terror of Grenzfurthner’s one-room pandemic lockdown opus Masking Threshold, now comes an even more claustrophobic exercise in horrific mental imagery. This is an important point: the imagery is mental because the audience never sees the action of the main characters. The visuals in the film are all tone-appropriate stills and landscapes that evoke the pace and action being described in the commentary track but don’t actually show what you’re hearing. So, in fact, we are neither seeing the film-within-a-film nor are we seeing the characters who are busily recording the audio commentary track for it.

“…listening to the recording sessions of the commentary track for a documentary…”

Our Razzennest experience is another level, and more of a radio play with disconnected but weirdly synchronized, images. The effect is not unlike sitting through The Wizard of Oz with Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon playing. The mind reaches so intensely for gestalt, trying to fit the patterns together, that a unique experience will be constructed mentally for each participant. In this case, the images and audio have been curated together to enhance that effect.

To say more about the narrative would wander into spoiler territory and rob the viewer/listener of a most wonderfully macabre sensory experience. The images that ebb and flow depict natural landscapes, power line towers, rusted farm equipment, buildings, animals, religious icons, and some compelling Sam Raimi-esque cameras flying at ground level a la The Evil Dead. Not to put too fine a point on it, but this is a jarring experience. The audience is watching and listening, while the narrative comes across as a very compelling radio drama (which is almost a lost art these days.) The listener is drawn into the horrific eventualities as the story charts a course from banal film banter to eventually painting the darkest expressions of one’s own imagination. The soundscape and voice acting create an alternate world. Pairing that aural experience with abstract but related visuals brings another level of engagement to the viewer/listener. This is truly madness, but the method behind it creates an effective and unique filmic (and audio) experience.

Grenzfurthner hints at what awaits the viewer in his director’s statement: “Razzennest not only gave me the unique opportunity to write a love letter to genre films and rain ridicule on pretentious arthouse films, but also to write a love letter to arthouse films and mock the inherent problems of genre films. It allowed me to realize my decades-old dream of making a film about the Thirty Years’ War and its endless atrocities without needing a budget of millions of dollars to depict the war’s bloody significance. Also, Razzennest provided an exciting chance to portray a fascinating landscape, the Rohrwald, which is only a few kilometers from where I grew up.”

Razzennest (2022)

Directed and Written: Johannes Grenzfurthner

Starring: Sophie Kathleen Kozeluh, Michael Smulik, Anne Weiner, etc.

Movie score: 8/10

Razzennest Image

"…an effective and unique filmic (and audio) experience."

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