Import Export (18)

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Time Out rating:

<strong>Rating: </strong><span class='lf-avgRating'>4</span>/5

User ratings:

<strong>Rating: </strong><span class='lf-avgRating'>4</span>/5
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Time Out says

Tue Sep 30 2008

With its explicit webcam sex scenes, gang-roamed Vienna shopping malls and desolate Ukrainian communist-era housing estates, Austrian director Ulrich Seidl’s latest provocation turns his unblinking ex-documentarist’s eye on the emotional wastelands of central Europe.

Offering a snowy Winterreise to balance his summer-scorched earlier fiction on modern alienation, debasement and youth rebellion (‘Dog Days’), Seidl broadens his geographical horizons in a cross-cutting tale of two troubled, indebted youngsters who never meet, but pass like ships in the night. At her wits’ end, Ukrainian nurse and single mum Olga (Ekateryna Rak) is on her way west; equally desperate failed guard Pauli (Paul Hofmann) has to take a job with his father-in-law, delivering gambling machines to the poorest reaches of Moldova and Ukraine.

Seidl’s confrontational cinema doesn’t make for easy viewing (it’s not intended to) and there are discomfiting sequences including some that many viewers may feel are gratuitous – not least in the depictions of violence and sex acts. His cinema can seem like a visually compelling and damning case for the prosecution – in the dock various political and social systems and the everyday fascism of the powerful – but here his critique is leavened by a more explicit and welcome direct expression of compassion and the intimacy of ritual, both sacred and profane.

Moreover, his complex, distanced sense of irony is enhanced with comedy: a cleaning company lecture on flattery and deference contrives to be touching, funny and distasteful all at the same time. Likewise cinematographer Ed Lachman’s images resonate with a bleak beauty while Seidl’s canny mix of professional and non-professional actors delivers a series of performances, major and minor, of genuinely heart-tugging truth and heartening humanity.
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Release details

Rated:

18

UK release:

Fri Oct 3, 2008

Duration:

135 mins

Cast and crew

Director:

Ulrich Seidl

Screenwriter:

Ulrich Seidl

Cast:

Ekateryna Rak, Paul Hofmann

Users say

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<strong>Rating: </strong><span class='lf-avgRating'>0</span>/5

Average User Rating

3.8 / 5

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LiveReviews|12
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Finn

I recorded and watched it from Film 4, together with the director's comments before the film (which I saved to watch afterwards). As well as focussing on grindingly depressing situations, the central themes throughout were the humiliation and degradation of humanity in various situations; the sex industry, domestic service, a geriatric ward, living conditions in Eastern Europe; even the opening scene showed training of security guards involving army style bullying tactics. I found it depressing and gratuitous and the characters paled in significance within the environments they struggled with – their humanity was almost swallowed up and overwhelmed by their situations. The director’s justifications did nothing to enlighten me or assure me that there was much point to having watched it through until its end. He asserted repeatedly that he was presenting things as they really are – ok, so the point of the film seemed to be ‘life can be really grim for some people’, end of – I think we are aware of that already. I couldn’t help suspecting that the director got a kick somehow out of portraying such humiliation and degradation. Why else include the detail of the step father deliberately humiliating the prostitute in front of his stepson (the director said of the scene that the father was ‘showing him the ropes’ so to speak) – well he was doing more than that, he was showing how money can enable you to do anything, not just have sex with a woman but humiliate her into the bargain. Granted in spite of all his bragging the father in law failed to get an erection, but the scene mainly concerned itself with the manipulation of the woman (as did all of the other sex worker scenes). Or include the strange scene where a gang bullies a security guard in a scene where they strip him and pour a can of beer over him and dance around him chanting (a pretty odd I thought – usually thugs beat someone up when stealing their phone or something – and don’t subject someone to a strange almost ritualistic humiliation involving no physical attack – weird!) Perhaps well filmed/acted, but ultimately pointless and depressing.

Finn

I recorded and watched it from Film 4, together with the director's comments before the film (which I saved to watch afterwards). As well as focussing on grindingly depressing situations, the central themes throughout were the humiliation and degradation of humanity in various situations; the sex industry, domestic service, a geriatric ward, living conditions in Eastern Europe; even the opening scene showed training of security guards involving army style bullying tactics. I found it depressing and gratuitous and the characters paled in significance within the environments they struggled with – their humanity was almost swallowed up and overwhelmed by their situations. The director’s justifications did nothing to enlighten me or assure me that there was much point to having watched it through until its end. He asserted repeatedly that he was presenting things as they really are – ok, so the point of the film seemed to be ‘life can be really grim for some people’, end of – I think we are aware of that already. I couldn’t help suspecting that the director got a kick somehow out of portraying such humiliation and degradation. Why else include the detail of the step father deliberately humiliating the prostitute in front of his stepson (the director said of the scene that the father was ‘showing him the ropes’ so to speak) – well he was doing more than that, he was showing how money can enable you to do anything, not just have sex with a woman but humiliate her into the bargain. Granted in spite of all his bragging the father in law failed to get an erection, but the scene mainly concerned itself with the manipulation of the woman (as did all of the other sex worker scenes). Or include the strange scene where a gang bullies a security guard in a scene where they strip him and pour a can of beer over him and dance around him chanting (a pretty odd I thought – usually thugs beat someone up when stealing their phone or something – and don’t subject someone to a strange almost ritualistic humiliation involving no physical attack – weird!) Perhaps well filmed/acted, but ultimately pointless and depressing.

Simon

Recently on Film4 - catch it if you can. Relentlessly grim but gripping - all seems shot in the true location ie real suffering dementia patients in real hospital dementia ward (check out the credits - 8 patients died in between filming and release), real socialist-style block housing (no water in deep winter!), real webcam porn location, real roma slum and housing - it goes on. The end result is fascinating but difficult to watch - the story is subtle but desperately sad as she leaves her baby with her mother just to get abused on her journey as probably many thousands are.

Simon

Recently on Film4 - catch it if you can. Relentlessly grim but gripping - all seems shot in the true location ie real suffering dementia patients in real hospital dementia ward (check out the credits - 8 patients died in between filming and release), real socialist-style block housing (no water in deep winter!), real webcam porn location, real roma slum and housing - it goes on. The end result is fascinating but difficult to watch - the story is subtle but desperately sad as she leaves her baby with her mother just to get abused on her journey as probably many thousands are.

Robert Thornton

Bleak, hard viewing but very compelling. Similiar feelings in watching the romanian film "4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days"

Robert Thornton

Bleak, hard viewing but very compelling. Similiar feelings in watching the romanian film "4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days"

Technoguy

The title says it all : people as commodities in the new European landscape of invisible borders It could have been called East, West as the flow of labour in the film is both from the Ukraine to Vienna and from Vienna to the Ukraine.Seidl's directing is bleak semi-documentary. He uses a mix of amateur actorsand real people in real locations some shooting of which may have been ethically dubious: showing a site of real internet porn and the actors performing in a way that is intrusive; secondly, shooting most of the last part of the film is shot in a real alzeimer's ward in Vienna.. A real housing estate in Slovakia is shown in gory close up. There are two parallel stories: Olga (Rak) who leaves behind her mother and young child in the Ukraine to seek out a better life in Vienna; and a headstrong young security guard Pauli (Hoffman) who is unemployed and on the run from loan sharks leaves Vienna to accompany his step-father on a trip delivering gumball machines in Eastern Europe. However his lascivious step-father has other things like the humiliation of young Ukrainian prostitutes (again real) on his mind much to his step-son’s disgust. His escape from this relationship is a sign of hope and independence though he is still unemployed. Olga too has to demean herself- she is abused by internet porn customers, a young boy at the home in Vienna where she is an au pair and has to take the inferior job of a cleaner on a geriatric ward when she is a qualified nurse. Although the scenes on the ward possibly gruesomely voyeuristic and breach confidentiality there is dignity and warmth and redemption in her dance with the dying man. Into the real environment of post-Soviet Europe Seidl inserts fictional beings and with the spontaneity of dialogue in his method of shooting the scenes there is a randomness which makes the viewer want to carry on watching. This is uncomfortable viewing done in beautiful tableau-like framed scenes which draw you in. The two leads are non actors whose lives were not far from the roles they played. There is a very real fight between Olga and the nurse which is totally spectacular that illustrates her fighting spirit. In the last frame in the geriatric Alzheimer’s ward there are words uttered by the dying patients like 'stink' and 'death' (repeatedly) which are worthy of Beckett.

Technoguy

The title says it all : people as commodities in the new European landscape of invisible borders It could have been called East, West as the flow of labour in the film is both from the Ukraine to Vienna and from Vienna to the Ukraine.Seidl's directing is bleak semi-documentary. He uses a mix of amateur actorsand real people in real locations some shooting of which may have been ethically dubious: showing a site of real internet porn and the actors performing in a way that is intrusive; secondly, shooting most of the last part of the film is shot in a real alzeimer's ward in Vienna.. A real housing estate in Slovakia is shown in gory close up. There are two parallel stories: Olga (Rak) who leaves behind her mother and young child in the Ukraine to seek out a better life in Vienna; and a headstrong young security guard Pauli (Hoffman) who is unemployed and on the run from loan sharks leaves Vienna to accompany his step-father on a trip delivering gumball machines in Eastern Europe. However his lascivious step-father has other things like the humiliation of young Ukrainian prostitutes (again real) on his mind much to his step-son’s disgust. His escape from this relationship is a sign of hope and independence though he is still unemployed. Olga too has to demean herself- she is abused by internet porn customers, a young boy at the home in Vienna where she is an au pair and has to take the inferior job of a cleaner on a geriatric ward when she is a qualified nurse. Although the scenes on the ward possibly gruesomely voyeuristic and breach confidentiality there is dignity and warmth and redemption in her dance with the dying man. Into the real environment of post-Soviet Europe Seidl inserts fictional beings and with the spontaneity of dialogue in his method of shooting the scenes there is a randomness which makes the viewer want to carry on watching. This is uncomfortable viewing done in beautiful tableau-like framed scenes which draw you in. The two leads are non actors whose lives were not far from the roles they played. There is a very real fight between Olga and the nurse which is totally spectacular that illustrates her fighting spirit. In the last frame in the geriatric Alzheimer’s ward there are words uttered by the dying patients like 'stink' and 'death' (repeatedly) which are worthy of Beckett.