Director: Johannes Grenzfurthner
Writer: Johannes Grenzfurthner
Time: 81 minutes
Review by Mike Szymanski
Just when you think all the innovative stuff was done involving found-footage films, or all-devices movies, there comes something truly unique and innovative that will bite you in the fettasna and tickle your roligben.
That’s this movie “Razzennest” which is German for “rat’s nest” but it also incorporates Swedish words in ridiculous contexts that almost make it seem like you are walking through the aisles of IKEA and reading the funny-sounding Swedish names of the household items.
This movie is produced by an avant-garde-techno-philosophical art group called monochrom (see https://www.monochrom.at/index.php) which says it’s based in Vienna and Zeta Draconis (a star in the constellation Draco). The film’s director and owner of the art group is Johannes Grenzfurthner who is known as a subversive nerd, hacker and art culture innovator. The group has been around since 1993, and the director has appeared as an actor in films like “Clickbait” and “Zero Crash” and produced, directed and contributed to more than a dozen other films.
The movie is an auditive experience, which means you have to listen to the words, and sometimes read them if they are in a different language. You’ll need to use your ears even more than your eyes while you’re watching this film.
The premise is quite unique. It’s the director, producer and cameraman all being interviewed for the commentary section of the soon-to-be-released DVD of this reputed art classic. The movie itself has no dialogue, no actors, in fact, no human being in the whole thing, but it is a series of images, mostly dark and gruesome.
The voices are being taped in a sound studio in Echo Park and led by an obnoxious Rotten Tomatoes-approved indie film critic Babette Cruickshank (voiced by Sophie Kathleen Kozeluh) in Echo Park. She is interviewing the overly pompous enfant terrible filmmaker named Manus Oosthuizen (voiced by Michael Smulik) and they sit down to do the audio commentary while this movie is rolling.
At one point, Babette is complimented for the dress she is wearing, who quickly points out, “Well, you’re not going to be able to see it.” No indeed, we will never see it.
You never see the actors, nor any sets or scenes other than the movie itself, which seems rather dull. So, you have to listen, really listen, and you will soon realize how funny the script really is. If you watch closely, sometimes the nature shots and symbolism in the actual movie seems to coincide with what’s happening at the sound studio at the time.
And after all, it’s probably best that we don’t see what’s actually going on because there’s puking and other assorted mayhem that’s best left to the imagination. And, that’s the brilliance of this movie.
The interviewer boasts that she is the curator of “indie incest films” at the big local film festival, and she frequently mispronounces the name of the film and the director because she didn’t do her homework.
While close-ups of broken-down buildings and nature scenes in the woods are playing, the director is being questioned about his past work. He talks about a controversial film he directed and starred in about him befriending a seal, and then catching it, killing it, and eating it. The director tries to justify his actions in that film to hysterically funny extremes.
There’s reference to his other works: “A Girl Called Colonoscopy” and others. Then, he explains that this movie is about a war that went from 1618 to 1648 and he didn’t want to have people in it because “I refuse to show what I want to express.”
He complains, “Why do I have to spell everything out? Does every film need Morgan Freeman?”
No, perhaps not, but they do have super-director Joe Dante (“Gremlins”) narrating a section of the film they’re commenting on.
The back-and-forth between the director and cameraman is particularly priceless and laugh-out-loud funny.
“You were never on the set,” the cameraman says to the director. “You told me to go into the woods and shoot shit.”
“It was a 72-hour shoot,” the director retorts.
“You were there only three hours.”
Then, talking about history, they discuss how different countries were involved.
“And the French did what they always do,” the director explained.
“No, spread disease,” the director says.
The discussion is almost like the Mystery Science Theater 3000 banter. It comes fast and furious, and before you can finish laughing at one, you are laughing at another line. The director is an incessant name-dropper and he is always bringing up big names he has worked with to show how important he is.
“One time on the set with Elijah Wood, I almost drowned in a port-o-potty,” he reminisces.
The actual real director of the movie Grenzfurthner says this project “gave me the unique opportunity to write a love letter to genre films and rain ridicule on pretentious arthouse films, but also to write a love letter to arthouse films and mock the inherent problems of genre films.”
It does poke fun at those of us who may seem self-import movie critics. It also allowed him to explore.
The director says, “Razzennest is horror, satire, drama, a ghost story, and a tale of survival told on a very improbable cinematic canvas. Given the political climate in the United States and other Western societies, the film is a necessary reflection on the undead legacy of murderous Christianity.”
At the end, Joe Dante explains it all — and how two lovers were actually in their graves, shot down during the 30-year-old war, and buried together.
The whole idea is fascinating, but the gag wears thin about a half an hour in, and it’s almost frustrating to not see what’s going on. It must be like in the old days sitting around the radio and watching it while they tell stories on air. It’s not clear what exactly is happening, so the ending is a bit frustrating as well.
The film already won some major accolades as the Best Director award from the Nightmares Film Festival, and best editing and screenplay at the South African Horrorfest. The world premiere was at Fantastic Fest in September 2022.