A review of broken dreams

Last week, I went out to the movie premiere of ‘A Glossary of Broken Dreams’. It’s monochrom’s latest outlet for critique with all that is wrong with the world, as ever represented mostly by Johannes Grenzfurthner as the unlikely likeable narrator, producer, leading figure and anchor point of the movie.

The celebrations themselves were held in the prestigious Gartenbaukino in Vienna, in all its 1960s glory. Attached to festivities around the 25th anniversary of the collective itself, you could engage with a crepe-making robot, or indulge yourself in merchandise. Once the audience was asked to enter the theatre, Grenzfurthner introduced the movie in a Soviet uniform, the symbol for broken dreams of last century leftists. The current movie, however, is presented as the result of a failure in acquiring funding for an entirely different project — the result of having another dream crushed.

Once the heavy curtains open, a postmodernist self-referential dream world appears. Capitalism, Means of Production, Work, Freedom, Privacy! Oh, the heavy terms that are discussed in abstract and concrete form. Right at the beginning, self- and other-exploitation is introduced as the reason the film could even come into existence. The means of production are shown throughout by microphones and secondary observer cameras. References to popular cultural theories are overbearing to the point, where I wish, there was a literature list available somewhere. Alas, I haven’t found it yet. It quickly makes sense why others (see here) compared it to a Slavoj Zizek Kinder Egg Surprise. I’d call it a braindump on stages of disappointments with persistent political ideologies, all of them promising the good life without ever being equipped to deliver on it.

Being embedded deeply in leftist, political nerd culture, the movie tries to address topics in depth, and as Grenzfurthner later states in the Q&A, they ‘couldn’t have dumbed it down further’. However, the film carries over deeply ingrained societal problems of representation. While jokingly presenting a ‘token conversation’ to pass the Bechdel test (without barely being able to do it otherwise), misogyny is, unfortunately, rampant. The (presumably female) coffee shop owner at the beginning provides a queasy figure we all can agree to hate. She does hot yoga! She doesn’t reflect on her role within capitalism! She chooses the easy way out! But so does Grenzfurthner. Later, an elderly lady is ‘waitersplained’ by a middle-aged man, which a subtitle even picks up on. But little is done to subvert these power dynamics. Instead, they are consistently re-affirmed through ‘irony’, while having male-presenting white characters being the dominant actors on the screen: the director, the singers, the president, the bourgeoisie, politics, the video game player… even the stills for the movie on monochrom’s site only show femme characters as drawn cartoons or puppets (!).

Hence, when called out on that afterwards, Grenzfurthner stumbles through an argument, that even in the next movie, a feminist musical, there won’t be many femmes either, because it doesn’t fit the historical context. Which… is convenient, I guess? Considering that there weren’t many black people among the historical figures surrounding the founding fathers, another musical, Hamilton, was successful (due to many reasons, but also) precisely due to putting a twist on historical accuracy. The glossary is continuously concerned with how constructed its perspective is, but here, it hits a blind spot. An unintended broken dream.

Don’t get me wrong; I still love it. Nothing is ever perfect, and the movie offers a lot of space for explicit reflection and, ultimately, by presenting the token conversation in the first place invites the critique above. It is ‘paved with good intentions’ as the subtitle declares. And so is the road to hell. ¯_(ツ)_/¯

Let me tell you, though, what makes this movie important, relevant and incredibly valuable — to me, but probably also to a broader audience. My sister joined me for the premiere. She studies something with economy. She reasons that she requires a substantial amount of money to be able to do the things she wants to. I did not know beforehand, that this was a movie that was giving her the vocabulary to express the conundrum she finds herself in. It hit close to home for her, having the inevitability of modern-day capitalism presented so plainly. I didn’t know what I was doing by bringing her along, but even though she was by far not the intended audience of the movie, she could take so much more from it, than me, enjoying being affirmed in my already firmly established beliefs. The movie delivered on many more levels than I expected possible. It has the potential to break into echo chambers and filter bubbles; it can empower people by providing them with a deeper understanding of the human condition.

So, I want to thank all who made the movie possible, who made it this treasure chest for critique, discussion, laboured thoughts and, ultimately, an inspiration to do better. Bravo.

Please consider visiting one of hopefully many future screenings in Burlington VT, USA (April 11), Montreal QC, CA (April 15), Montpelier VT, USA (April 17) or as announced here.

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