Name: Monika Martyniuk
"One of Us" by Stephan Richter (AU)
San Sebastian Film Festival 2015 - New Directors
A huge blue spot of fluid on the floor is going to get bigger and bigger. Groats are pouring from a bag slowly. We are in an empty supermarket. It looks like time has stopped. Suddenly, we see a boy lying on the floor. The film talks about the events which lead to this tragic end. It’s based on a true story.
It was a huge scandal in Austria in 2009. Two teenagers broke into a supermarket during the night so armed police came to the place. A 14-years old boy was shot in the back, he died shortly after, somewhere between the supermarket shelves. The event was a gigantic shock for Austrian society and it started a public discussion. We shouldn’t be surprised that the young director, Stephan Richter, decided to make a film inspired by this incident. It could be One of Us – he wanted to say in his first feature. Probably that is why, at the beginning of the movie, we observe scenes from the daily routine of teenagers living in the suburbs. They hang around, smoking cigarettes and marijuana, drinking, chatting and sometimes drawing graffiti. This introduction to the story seems to be too long. Perhaps the director made it so carefully to emphasize that they are just ordinary teenagers, who from time to time do something stupid. However, who doesn’t? Maybe he wanted to build a connection between the characters and the viewers. They aren’t criminals, but they were treated like they were. I can understand his intentions. On the other hand, there are so many movies about teenagers showing them wasting their time that it can be a little bit repetitive, which is the case.
For the young people presented in the movie, the favourite, and, at the same time, the one meeting point is the supermarket. It could be a symbol of a colourful, luxurious, more attractive world – a better place where the characters would like to be. However, it’s not as positive as it looks. As the director stated in the interview, the diversity of products is connected with capitalism. The interior of the supermarket contrasts with the parking lot near the supermarket, which is a huge, empty, grey space made from cement. However, One of Us talks not only about the space, but mainly about the people. We have a whole gallery of unique personalities: the boss of the shop who is examining his pulse all the time; the woman who is a mother and police officer; the young man working in the supermarket, and the guy who is killing his time by driving a car.
The strong side of the movie is in the cinematography and the music. Symmetric, well-thought frames marvellously present the richness of the systematically structured interior of the supermarket. Night shots with lights reflecting on the car's windscreen create mysterious atmosphere. German street music helps to build the tension, especially in the last part of the film, which is brilliant. The blue lights of the police car correspond with the blue spot of the fluid from the beginning – it’s a kind of composition brace. In the end, we come back to the first scenes but we are richer in experiences, we’ve lost our innocence. Our perspective on the world has changed.