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LUZIFER (2021, AUT) – 7/10

This dark alpine fantasy of the Austrian Peter Brunner had its premiere at the Locarno festival, and “Luzifer” is a rather shocking story about a mother and son living in isolation somewhere in the Austrian Alps. Although the introduction says that the story is based on real events and people, “Luzifer” is one of those almost post-apocalyptic, surreal, hypnotic stories in which the creation of atmosphere and uncomfortable atmosphere is more important than the narration itself, and it definitely belongs to the circle of films as created. for cult status. It all seems somehow phantasmagoric, mystical and even bizarre, full of some dark, quasi-Christian symbolism, and some strange conglomeration of Christianity and paganism created by the mother and son who live there.

Johannes (another great role for German actor Franz Rogowski) is a young man of modest intellectual capacity who is infinitely loyal to his mother Maria (Susanne Jensen). And one does not know which of the two seems more bizarre. A retarded son who is at the level of a child of some seven, eight years old, or a mother with a haircut tattooed all over her body who once took refuge in the foothills of the mountains to fight alcohol and drug addiction. She is still obviously struggling with her inner demons, and she has created a bizarre kind of idolatry with which she infected her son, and he is constantly looking for the devil or Lucifer, with whom his mother scares him.

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But the question of all questions here is what is or who is Lucifer actually? Drones that constantly come to the mountains and follow them, and Johannes tries to drive them away? Some weird guys trying to get their mother to sell a hut and land in the mountains? Or maybe she herself? It is a film that opens up a lot of questions and gives very few answers. Extremely bizarre and unnatural is the mother-son relationship, as well as all those bizarre religious rituals they perform, and the additional atmosphere of mysticism and discomfort is given by the mountain environment and sinister mountain passes that seem to evoke some misfortune. This is a dark fantasy that functions on a symbolic level and in part “Luzifer” can be deciphered as a bizarre struggle between ancient and modern as the bizarre kind of paradise that Susanne created there is threatened by an architectural project that would turn the environment into another destination for mass tourism.

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It is a film of strong visuals that seems to take place in a kind of post-apocalyptic environment in which people are somehow dehumanized and mother and son live there in an almost pre-civilizational way of life. It is a film that strikes hard on all the senses, a film open to different interpretations, one of those almost extreme, marginally experimental films in which there is no clear narrative line, and yet a film that somehow grabs the viewer from the first minute and does not let go until the end until all that madness is over. It is interesting that Brunner’s father was a psychoanalyst and his mother an art therapist, while his mentor was the famous Michael Haneke, hence the urge to explore the subconscious, the dark, the diabolical. Definitely “Luzifer” won’t be a film to everyone’s liking, but those who love twisted, shifted, avant-garde and dark films are unlikely to miss out on this distracted fantasy.

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