Night Sight 2020

In the Haunted House Called Europe

(Markus Keuschnigg, curator)

As in the many years before, 2020’s Night Sight will not be serving any guidelines, recommending any measures on how to improve the world, insisting on morals and decency, nor hoping that after watching this year’s selection of five movies, the audience will have had any kind of epiphany. Instead, the consistently personal and therefore subjective views of the world and values of the respective works unavoidably should and ought to clash and rub each other up the wrong way until the sparks fly, the glow of which, however brief it may be, will brighten the dark through which we all crawl in pre-apocalyptic anxiety and with a vague feeling of anger.

Above all of this hangs, in all of this wells up the specter of the foreign, a fundamental constant of genre cinema constantly recurring in various forms. The monstrous is merely its loudest and most obvious shape: In the Belgian splatter comedy Yummy, cosmetic surgery tourists in an Eastern European hospital witness a viral outbreak that turns the infected into flesh-eating monsters. If the external facades crumble, the internal values will have to be brought up to date and activated in order to have a chance of survival.

At the heart of this year’s Night Sight selec- tion, there are three works that sometimes take a radical, and sometimes the classic approach to deal with the ever constant reservoir of fear.

Katrin Gebbe’s opening film Pelican Blood revolves around religious topics like guilt, self-sacrifice and charity, going through their most extreme versions with an independent single mom and horse ranch owner who adopts a five-year-old Bulgarian girl and, with the love of a mother, tries to deliver her from a fate of misery even when it’s already too late. Budding, before long distorted spirituality is also the treatment of choice for the living environments and emotional worlds that have become uncertain or imbalanced, are in imminent danger of tumbling in Rose Glass’s sinister feature film debut Saint Maud. An introverted caregiver looks after a terminally ill dancer, whose increasingly desperate hedonistic surges do not agree with the former’s fanatical religiousness that is removed from reality. A radically alternative concept to these damned encounters with the foreign, the Italian neo-gothic thriller The Nest sees all things unknown locked out as a precaution. A paraplegic boy figuratively and literally sits in a gilded cage taking the form of a sprawling upperclass estate which he must not leave, for safety reasons, according to his mother. Its walls, however, house a secret that is revealed piece by piece until the world behind that world can be seen.

Night Sight 2020 tells us about the haunted house called Europe, through which the old ghosts float in new disguises and feast on our insecurities and anxieties until courage and solidarity among those (still) alive make them vanish into thin air. Or not. As always, the principle: Only they who know the night treasure the day. Consequently, we embrace the dark, celebrate confrontation, revere the imposition, until the sparks fly and brighten our ravaged souls a little. This could also be called hope.