by Mark Wilshin
Nothing makes Austria more terrifying than the films of Ulrich Seidl, and none more so than In The Basement, as he exposes the dark underbelly of Austrian cellars. From portraits of women washing their laundry, radio fanatics and toy railway hobbyists, to a snake devouring and innocently fearless guinea-pig, a fantasy develops in which men and women can love out the private passions that have no place above ground. Through interviews with masochists, dominatrices, opera-singing firing range owners and Hitler aficionados, a portrait of contemporary Austria emerges – with issues such as immigration, male-female relationships and sex. Primarily fantasy spaces for men, the portrait of these underground lairs is however skewed, with an over-representation of xenophobic, misogynistic men – who presumably have the most interesting basements. Women however also emerge – lost in their own fantasies of babies, pain and power. But revealing Austrian secrets at their most sensational and sordid, Seidl creates a memorable, funny and ultimately chilling document of souls laid bare and skeletons uncloseted.
In The Basement is showing on Oct 14th & 15th at the 58th BFI London Film Festival