Ahorn | Wednesday April 18th, 2018
Artaud’s ‘Theatre of Cruelty’, Sartre’s ‘No Exit’ or an advertisement for the ‘GQ Magazine’ – WEATHER HOUSE triggers very different associations among us all. Filmmaker and -critic Andrew Horn took a look at the sci-fi story in a minimalist setup at this year’s Achtung Berlin Festival:
When I saw the film, WEATHER HOUSE, by Frauke Havemann and Eric Schefter, it reminded of a science fiction story I read years ago about a disk jockey in some future era who is broadcasting world-wide from a one-man satellite orbiting the earth. It appears that the world has ended – I don’t remember the explanation of why, or how – and there may never be a ship coming to take him back to earth. Without any alternative, and without any hope of rescue, he continued to do what he knew best – he broadcast music. Day and night, the hits kept on coming, whether there was anyone to hear them or not.
In WEATHER HOUSE, the world has also ended and we don’t know why or how. The film focuses on a group of survivors who are living in a secluded, delapidated house. We don’t know how they got there or how long ago they came. A stranger, who arrives at one point, says there are other such houses but we don’t know where they are and clearly there has been no contact. One of the inhabitants, who is referred to as an engineer, has a radio and is constantly searching up and down the dial. There is only static except for one frequency broadcasting easy listening music, and it’s always the same song.
They don’t appear to be in any immediate danger – there are no zombies like “The Walking Dead” and no attacking vampires like “The Omega Man”. Occasionally someone does appear from outside, but they’re silent and seem to be suffering from some kind of invisible plague. Soon after, he or she slowly falls to the floor and “stops”. The body is then dragged outside to what is referred to as “the burning pit.”
We are drawn into their world by following the survivors’ daily routines. They play cards, they eat meals, they go through various mundane tasks and interactions that stand in for “normal life”. One woman never speaks but is constantly recording everything everyone says. One woman is constantly drinking. The engineer takes care of a giant potted plant. A tall man strings wires around the house to protect against lightning. The stranger says he’s searching for his wife but settles into the house without question.
They all speak to each other in what seems to be a cryptic shorthand, probably the result of being in each other’s company 24 hours a day for days?/months?/years? on end. It’s if everything to say has been said, all histories recounted, all personal resentments and disagreements long since played out and left behind. The few conflicts that arise come without dramatics. There is a certain kind of edgy calm.
Meanwhile, on the outside, the weather is running wild. There are drastic shifts of temperature, the winds howl, and pouring rain falls in a lush empty forest – as if nature is trying to take back control. Time in the film is marked not only by clock time but temperature and air pressure. The people inside are protected in a kind of limbo, but everything is slowly decaying.
The film also reminded me of an ad I once saw for GQ Magazine. It showed some people relaxing by the pool surrounded by a garden and said, “when you live the GQ lifestyle, life becomes one long Sunday afternoon”. While this was obviously meant to evoke a positive image, it perversely made me think of a deadly neverending stasis, like some low key, existential horror movie. Replace the pool house with the delapidated cottage and the garden with the primordial forest, this could be that movie.