‘Museum Hours’ is a burden to undertake
Starting this weekend at the TIFF Bell Lightbox is the veteran of the TIFF, Locarno and SXSW film festivals that examines the quiet life inside a museum, the people that walk among the pieces of art and their ruminations on their surroundings that comprises “Museum Hours”.
Starring: Mary Margaret O’Hara, Bobby Sommer, Ela Piplits
Written and Directed by Jem Cohen
When Vienna museum guard Johan (Sommer) befriends an enigmatic visitor, the grand Kunsthistorisches Art Museum becomes a mysterious crossroads which sparks explorations of their lives, the city, and the ways artworks reflect and shape the world.
At one point early on in the film our narrator and main guide through this world Johan delivers a single line that seems to plot out the entire rest of the film, ‘Guarding has it’s tedium’. Sitting in front of the same door as hundreds of visitors pass him by every day as they wander through the vast hallways of gorgeous art, Johan is barely acknowledged or even noticed during his entire day. It explains the reason as to why he latches on to O’Hara’s tourist character, but not why we the audience should latch onto the film. In fact, watching Museum Hours has its tedium, and a lot of it.
Visually the film packs a punch because of the beautiful works of art that are displayed across the screen, with loving close ups of fantastic brush strokes on canvas and figures carved out of marble catching the audiences eye. But relying on solely these works of art to lure us in is where the film falls flat, as watching the film can equate to watching a slide of the greatest works of art from around the world through and old school Viewmaster. Sure you get to see these things but there is a barrier, not unlike the Viewmaster’s plastic shell, that keeps us from experiencing the world these pieces of art inhabits. The film plods along with a menacingly methodical pace that also drags the audience further away from the world we are meant to inhabit here.
The performances don’t merit much discussion, not that they are bad, they simply don’t have very much at all to do as the camera prefers to meander without much purpose throughout this world. The film has many supporters, who apparently were able to get more of a personal attachment to the film, and considering how beautiful the film looks this should not surprise. But what’s the point of admiring the most beautiful girl in the room if she literally has nothing to say?
1½ out of 5
Till Next Time
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