Review: Homo sapiens (2016)


Homo sapiens (2016)

Directed by: Nikolaus Geyrhalter | 94 minutes | documentary

A good concept is half the battle. Sometimes anyway. The concept for ‘Homo Sapiens’ by Austrian Nikolaus Geyrhalter is remarkable to say the least. In this documentary we see once inhabited locations that have been left to their own devices. In tableaus of about half a minute each, we see dilapidated shopping centers, empty office buildings, overgrown railway lines, dismantled factories and much more. The journey to these bleak places takes us through the whole world. We can see exactly where we are from signboards and architecture.

The pity of ‘Homo Sapiens’ is that we don’t quite know what to do with the deeper meaning. We see that nature and the elements have free rein in the dilapidated buildings, but what should we do with it? What we see is not the image of a post-apocalyptic world, because in such a world there are no more people who can see these images and give them meaning. What we do see are hyper-stylized images of decay, of desolation and of the fascinating marriage between nature and culture.

The beauty of the images lies in the strict frameworks and arty compositions. Symmetrical where possible, with an eye for detail and color. Geyrhalter always filmed under the most favorable weather conditions. We see choreographies of abandoned materials that dance in the strong wind. We also see an abandoned sports hall under a thick layer of snow and an underground junkyard where the sun provides a beautiful light.

The soundtrack has also been well thought out. Unnaturally loud rain and wind noises ensure that we understand that people may have moved away, but life is still going on. And we don’t hear that from the elements, but from the birds and other animals that inhabit the soundtrack.

The result is a film that will especially appeal to aesthetes. Although the content is less exciting than the concept promises, we are treated to an hour and a half of cinematic enjoyment. Less a film about the destructive urge of homo sapiens than about the artistic choices of a director. As long as those choices produce beautiful images and they also make you feel completely zen, you won’t hear us complaining.

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