Saturday, March 22, 2014

Museum Hours: a film

Museum Hours
Written and directed by Jem Cohen 
Released in 2013
107 minutes

This is one of those special, quiet films that I thoroughly enjoyed but can't really tell you why.  The plot is simple:  Anne, a woman from Montreal, goes to Vienna to be with her cousin who is in a coma.  Just what happened to her cousin is never really explained, or at least I missed it, if it was.  It really isn't the focal point of the film.

While in Vienna, she visits the Art History Museum and meets Johann, a museum guard.  They get to talking, and she explains briefly why she is in Vienna. Since she is a stranger and alone in Vienna and he has few friends, he offers to be her guide to Vienna.  Much of the film takes place in the Museum or the surround areas since neither has much money.  Over the course of the film, they learn about Vienna, the Museum, and each other.  Johann, at one point, thinks to himself  how lucky he is for having the opportunity to see his city through the eyes of someone new to Vienna. 

The main attraction of the film, though, is the combination of their quiet, joyful association and the photography.  The photography may have been designed by an artist--striking scenes where the colors suddenly become noticeable--not vivid in a glossy way, but strong, even browns and greys stand out.  I know nothing of the technology of film so I can't say how it's done--special filters or screens, perhaps in the film processing.

We are presented with striking juxtapositions between the street scenes and the paintings in the museum.  Frequently the street scenes resemble works of art from the museum, or perhaps it's the art works that resemble street scenes.  At times I wasn't sure whether I was seeing a painting or a street shot.  Some scenes from outside the museum could easily be titled "A Still Life."  And, in addition,   the treatment of many of the people in the film become portraits as we see them in repose.

The film is available on Netflix and the local public library.  I would recommend getting it from the library because it comes with a booklet that's  not available from Netflix.  I have only 10 DVDs in my personal collection, two of which are gifts.  I am seriously considering buying this film.

This film goes on my must see again list.


  1. Never heard of this one, Fred. But it sounds like something I'd enjoy. Thanks for the intro. I'll add it to my Netflix queue. Vienna is a city that has always intrigued me for one reason or another.

  2. Yvette,

    Considering your interest in art, I think you would really enjoy this film. If you can find it in the library, I would recommend that because the DVD I got from the library had a booklet with it which you won't get from Netflix.


  3. Fred,

    Amazon has the film in DVD and Blu Ray. From your review, it sounds like spendind $10 more for the Bu Ray version would be worth it.

  4. Cheryl,

    I just viewed the Blue-Ray version, and it's well worth the extra money. Things I hadn't noticed before jumped out at me.

    Thanks for the suggestion.