Autumn 2013 Features series
Sunday, December 8, 2013 at 4:00pm
Sunday, December 8, 2013 at 7:00pm
Directed by Jem Cohen
Screenplay by Jem Cohen
Starring Mary Margaret O'Hara, Bobby Sommer, and Ela Piplits
Rated NR ·
USA / Austria
English and German
Acclaimed filmmaker Jem Cohen’s new feature, Museum Hours, is a mesmerizing tale of two strangers who find refuge in Vienna’s grand Kunsthistorisches Art Museum. Johann (Bobby Sommer), a museum guard, spends his days silently observing both the art and the visitors. Anne (Mary Margaret O’Hara), a Canadian woman, is called to Vienna unexpectedly when a distant cousin falls seriously ill. Never having been to Austria and with little money, she wanders the city in limbo, taking the museum as her refuge. Johann, initially wary, offers help, and they are drawn into each other’s worlds.
Their meetings spark an unexpected series of explorations—of their own lives and the life of the city, and of the way artworks can reflect and shape daily experience. The museum, to which Cohen had nearly unfettered access, is seen in the film not as an archaic institution housing historical artifacts, but as an enigmatic crossroads in which, through the artworks, a discussion takes place across time with vital implications in the contemporary world.
While the “conversations” embodied in the museum’s collection revolve around nothing less than the matters that most concern us all: death, sex, history, theology, materialism, and so on; it is through the regular lives of the guard and displaced visitor that these heady subjects are brought entirely down to earth and made manifest.
The exquisitely photographed Museum Hours is an ode to the bonds of friendship, an exploration of an unseen Vienna, and the power of art to both mirror and alter our lives.
“Museum Hours is every bit as masterfully conceived and executed as the art works that serve as the film’s lively cast of supporting characters.” (Ann Hornaday, The Washington Post)
“Though Museum Hours glances at medieval and classical works, its gallery-strolling focus is on those Dutch and Flemish paintings from the early modern period that turned ordinary faces and everyday events into subjects for exalted artistic scrutiny. The movie, by visual example rather than thematic argument, shows that this impulse is still very much alive. A modern city or a middle-aged face can be regarded with Rembrandt-like sympathy or Bruegelesque curiosity, through a camera or a pair of eyes. This movie is rigorously and intensely lifelike, which is to say that it’s also a strange and moving work of art.” (A.O. Scott, The New York Times)