by Nikolaus Geyrhalter
Austria, No dialogue, 2016, 94 min, DCP
U.S. THEATRICAL PREMIERE RUN!
Distributed by KimStim.
The latest film by Austrian documentary filmmaker Nikolaus Geyrhalter (PRIPYAT, OUR DAILY BREAD, ABENDLAND) is a typically masterful, disturbing work, scary in its compositional perfection and unblinking depiction of mankind’s effect on the planet. Where Geyrhalter’s eye for the dystopic has brought certain of his earlier works to the precipice of a kind of documentary science fiction (in OUR DAILY BREAD for instance, which paints a highly unsettling portrait of the modern food industry), HOMO SAPIENS goes even further. Focusing his gaze on modern ruins, and with nary a human being in sight, Geyrhalter has made a film that is ostensibly an essay on abandoned structures and spaces, of factories and hospitals and homes left empty and crumbling. But marked by the profound absence of life, and recording manmade structures that are gradually being reclaimed by nature, it registers as something like a documentary portrait of a post-human world, an ode to humanity as seen from the distant future. A film about the finiteness and fragility of human existence, HOMO SAPIENS questions the meaning of human existence in relation to the world we live in.
“Nikolaus Geyrhalter’s fantastical HOMO SAPIENS depicts a disquieting scenario whereby the world made by people is slowly won back by nature: it is science fiction and documentary in equal measure, equal parts contemporary and post-apocalyptic.” –BERLINALE
“From a frightening distance and with supreme indifference, we examine the remnants of this world as if we were archaeologists from the future or from a different world, trying to decipher an alien civilization. Everything turns into a cipher, a sign, a code that promises understanding: they must have been megalomaniacs, those humans – extravagant, imposing, and full of themselves. In HOMO SAPIENS, we confront the absurdity of such self-images once they are subject to decay. We would like to believe that this film tells of a distant future, but we know that its images were generated in the here and now.” –Alejandro Bachmann