New to DVD this week: IN THE BASEMENT
Ulrich Seidl’s exploration of what happens in Austrians’ inner sanctums made its bow at Venice in 2014. Other fest berths included CPH:DOX, London, Montreal, Zurich, Thessaloniki Doc, Hong Kong, BAFICI, Docs Against Gravity, Melbourne, Sydney, and Sidewalk.
Seidl offers a survey of both the innocuous – smoking teens, model train enthusiasts – and the extreme – SM dungeons, Nazi memorabilia – in the basements of his fellow countrymen and women. Artfully, precisely filmed, often in wide, static shots, these spaces are presented as tableaux, inviting the viewer to gaze upon that which is often kept private. While Seidl includes some deliberately staged sequences – notably, the older woman who fusses over creepy lifelike dolls – the majority of the proceedings seem to be authentic, and carry unusual power precisely because they are presented so matter-of-factly. At the same time, interviews with participants are sometimes more affecting than the images are perhaps meant to be, with a former victim of domestic abuse turned masochist notably disturbing, and a prostitute’s skinny john’s humblebrags about his ejaculations disarmingly funny.