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11th Reykjavík International Film Festival, 2014

One More Thing
By Mårten Blomkvist

Age of Cannibals
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"Age of Cannibals" (Johannes Naber)

It was a delight to award the Fipresci prize to Bota; original, atmospheric and with a political twist revealing itself as the film goes on.

I am very happy with our jury's decision on Bota, but why not add a few words on another film I found interesting?

The film could benefit in being mentioned as I noticed it turned a lot of people off. The German Age of Cannibals (Zeit der Kannibalen) from director Johannes Naber and screenwriter Stefan Weigl isn't aiming to be realistic, rather, a claustrophobic, sterile style is part of its appeal.

It is about the downfall of — eventually — three consultants working for an anonymous firm, referred to only as "The Company". It plays out in the rooms of high class hotels around the world, rooms that seem interchangeable: wherever the characters go their immediate environment stays the same and is presumably the way they want it. Frank (Devid Stresow) and Kai (Sebastian Blomberg) are working as a team, constantly travelling, pushing, it seems, third world contractors to lower their prices for The Company.

They both want to achieve partnership status in The Company, caring for little else, bullying staff at the various hotels and finding sadistic pleasure in cutting off old contractors.

They are joined by Bianca (Katharina Schüttler), who actually cares about the ethics involved in what they are doing, but is also sent by The Company as a spy, to check up on Frank and Kai's performances. In the end they each face betrayal as well as deadly violence from the conflict ridden outside world, something they thought they could ignore.

Age of Cannibals is not based on a play but makes every effort to create that impression. The views out through the hotel windows are never realistic, rather like the outlined, painted city background you'd expect to see at the theatre.

It's all very much over the top; the slightly insane behaviour of the immensly selfish and phobic Frank and Kai contrasting with their immaculate suits and the neutral, tomb-like hotel room settings. Frank never wants to go home, insists no one puts a mint or anything on his pillow and actually threatens staff with violence should they, by mistake, leave one for him. Kai has travelled too much, his marriage is falling to pieces and he is prone to breaking things in his room when a phone call home goes badly.

Too stagey? Too dry, too cold? Too unrealistic?

I sense that was what many thought when watching it. And none of the characters arelikable or even all that believable.

But I liked this approach of putting globalization up on a stage. The characters workas caricatures: they are reproachable, of course, but also kind of tragic: the world was theirs, they travelled the globe, but they were incapable of enjoying it as anything other than an object toplunder. Bianca is the only one who shows even a little interest inthe world around them. But when she tries to get the men to accompany her outside of the hotel, to see and experience something of the world around them, they refuse.

Age of Cannibals is orginal, a work of its own. It is well acted and held my interest; the Brechtian approach is certainly not à la mode, and this globalization is a rarely portrayed subject in films. If you get an opportunity to see it, give it a chance.

Mårten Blomkvist
© FIPRESCI 2014

Mårten Blomkvist is a film critic, journalist, author, working as a free lance for Dagens Nyheter, Sweden's largest morning daily, Swedish public radio, public television, and other outlets.

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