One of Us: The microcosm of the supermarket
by Sabine Kues
- SAN SEBASTIÁN 2015: After several experimental shorts, director Stephan Richter is presenting his debut film on deadly suburban ennui – based on true events
Vienna-based director Stephan Richter is presenting his first feature-length film, One of Us [+see also:
interview: Stephan Richter
film profile], in San Sebastián Film Festival’s New Directors competition. The director graduated from the University of Applied Arts in Vienna in 2007 with his experimental short Out of Bounds, which travelled to international film festivals, reaching as far as the Antimatter Film and Video Festival in Victoria, Canada, and ExiS in South Korea.
One of Us is based on true events and recounts a fatal shooting in a supermarket, somewhere in suburbia in Austria. Julian is 14 and, like the other teenagers in his area, hangs out at the local supermarket to annoy the bourgeois, meet his friends and make new ones. One of the latter is Marko; recently released from prison, the boy looks like trouble, and most likely this is what attracts Julian to him in the first place. Together they break into the supermarket – just for kicks – but only one of them will come out alive.
Richter lets his film unfold within the bubble of the constructed world that is the supermarket. He begins with the tranquillity of shock in the aftermath of the shooting. The question of 'How did it come to that point?' opens the film and remains central throughout, as the story of a bored youth and an age of depression rumbles along. The images and sound depict the atmosphere of the supermarket as an almost surreal place. Long takes and tracking shots create the space of the store with its artificial atmosphere of orderly, packed shelves. The soundscape supports this feel through ambient sounds by musicians Maja Osojnik and Matija Schellander, with their electro-acoustic improvisations. As in his previous short films, director Richter initially sets out to explore this space in which he places his characters, who seem to be highly influenced by their surroundings. And thus we meet the whole supermarket 'community': the manager who compulsively checks his pulse during his breaks, the slightly aggressive security guards who try to enforce their regime of law and order, and the gang of teenagers just loitering.
The reoccurring episodes showing the same people coming to the supermarket, going about the same business every time, convey the routine and monotony of a whole community revolving around the store. The images and the foregrounded sound reveal a fascination for this space that also seems to have put a spell on the entire community – who are abruptly awoken from their sleep by the ringing out of gunshots.
One of Us was developed with the support of the 2012 Sources2 script development workshop and the 2013 Ekran directing workshop at the Wajda Film School in Warsaw. Produced by Austrian production company Golden Girls, the film is distributed by Filmladen and will subsequently be screened at the Zurich Film Festival.