Jesus, You Know

  • Austria
Audio Tracks 

A theological investigation by the Austrian director Ulrich Seidl is a series of confessions of six Catholics openly describing in front of the camera their very personal relationship with Jesus Christ. The film background is the church interior, a building where Christians gather to praise God.

The religious service itself, however, is not present in the film. Seidl shows the church as a place where all believers can mediate and say their personal prayers. Reproductions of religious paintings and details of ritual things play their role during the intermezzos, which, mutely, illustrate the feelings a woman has for the church and the religious subjects seen in the everyday routine of taking care of them (ironing of vestments, washing the altar, dusting the Christ's underarms), the director leaves the church together with the others to look inside their monotonous lives.

The main focus of the film is, however, the confession shown as a ritual using a confessionary-camera (i.e. a confessionary without absolution); people approach the camera, which is often placed at the main altar, and lead a monologue. They are trying to squeeze their feelings into words and practical details, the stream of consciousness putting together portraits of lonely individuals who gave all their hope to religion, they are telling stories about situations in their lives that led them towards the same belief. Prayers to a father, the silent, loving and listening saviour, gradually become confessions. Everybody comes with a different plea.

The director whose parents wished for him to become a priest and from his early childhood gave him a strict religious education, a fact not that uncommon in the Catholic Austria, says that the picture did not intend to show religious fanatics, but ordinary Catholics who, unlike him, have never revolted against their Catholic homes (Seidl dedicated the film to his parents).

It is surprising to see how the author of brutal stylised documentaries calmed down, still employing an exquisite style and a controversial topic. Seidl does not manipulate his characters, does not put them down, on the contrary, he gives them a surprising freedom and lets them speak freely with a new degree of authenticity, as though after the tense Dog Days he was beginning a new phase of filmmaking.

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