email print share on Facebook share on Twitter share on reddit pin on Pinterest

LOCARNO 2021 Competition

Review: Luzifer

by 

- Based upon a true story, Austrian director Peter Brunner’s new feature film immerses itself in a world where mysticism and redemption are inextricably linked

Review: Luzifer
Franz Rogowski and Susanne Jensen in Luzifer

After imposing himself internationally with a series of demanding works (My Blind Heart [+see also:
trailer
interview: Peter Brunner
film profile
]
- 2013, Those Who Fall Have Wings [+see also:
trailer
interview: Peter Brunner
film profile
]
– 2015, and To The Night [+see also:
trailer
interview: Peter Brunner, Eleonore Hen…
film profile
]
- 2018), which were selected in prestigious festivals such as Slamdance, the International Film Festival Rotterdam and Karlovy Vary, Viennese director Peter Brunner is now gracing the Locarno Film Festival’s International Competition by way of Luzifer [+see also:
trailer
interview: Peter Brunner
film profile
]
, produced by Ulrich Seidl, which takes us on an angst-inducing yet invigorating journey into the minds of characters who have turned their marginal status into their strength.

(The article continues below - Commercial information)

Based upon a true story of an exorcism, Luzifer homes in on two characters: a hypersensitive boy called Johannes (played brilliantly by the dancer and actor Franz Rogowski) who has lost none of his childlike innocence, and his devoted mother, a former alcoholic and drug addict who is fighting her addictions amidst the wilds of nature which soothe and protect her. The only companion providing Johannes with an alternative to the close relationship he shares with his mother is his eagle. The lives of our two modern-day hermits are governed by prayers and ancestral rituals which they alone know the true meaning of. But strange objects (drones) hailing from an intrusive and ruthless civilization suddenly begin to violate their world composed of nature and mysterious practices. The mystical Alpine paradise inhabited by Johannes and his mother is threatened by an architectural project which would transform their world into a mass tourism destination. Luckily, an ambiguous, ancestral force seems to suddenly rise up in order to protect the mountain which belongs to it by rights.

Who is Luzifer? What is this brutal yet protective force which breaks lose when attacked? Could Luzifer be the other side of the progress coin, which doesn’t know what to do with innocence and mysticism? With his latest feature film, Peter Brunner seems to want to remind us that even though our society is leading us towards a pragmatism bordering on cynicism, nature’s troubling and revolutionary mysticism can return us to our wild, uncontaminated, pre-civilized state. Everyone is free to interpret this force for corruption and redemption as they see fit; what matters is facing up to it, giving it a face so as to free it from the label categorising it as wholly negative. Johannes’ mother has built up and created her own personal paradise, which she defends ferociously against a malign force representing capitalism: men without scruples who want to turn the mountain into a theme park for the rich.

Reminiscent of the extreme and powerful moods of Nick Cave’s cult book And the Ass Saw the Angel, the majestic scenery gracing Brunner’s latest movie (accompanied by mysterious music composed by Tim Hacker) translates into images the protagonists’ inner worlds, the anxieties and ecstasy of these beings who have decided to return to their roots, to a world where nature alone dictates the rules. Nature becomes some sort of divinity, capable of purifying the souls of unwitting sinners who are the victims of a brutal society which has turned them into puppets and stripped them of their own free will. Nature and culture appear to collide in a constant battle for survival.

A diverse blend of professionals and non-professionals, the actors lend the film an extra helping of realism and poetry. Susanne Jensen is particularly touching as a pastor and abuse survivor who has bravely faced up to her past thanks to the complex and intense role played by Johannes’ mother. “My aim is to translate mental states by way of a pure cinematic experience”, Brunner states, as if wanting to remind us that cinema is also about magic and mystery, an art form which feeds on and develops via the complexity of humankind. Luzifer is an extreme and demanding (and, at times, even unbearable) film, which urges viewers to face up to their unspeakable fragility.

Luzifer is produced by Ulrich Seidl Filmproduktion (Austria) and sold worldwide by Film Republic.

(The article continues below - Commercial information)

(Translated from Italian)

Did you enjoy reading this article? Please subscribe to our newsletter to receive more stories like this directly in your inbox.

Privacy Policy