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A lonely widowed housewife does her daily chores, takes care of her apartment where she lives with her teenage son, and turns the occasional trick to make ends meet. However, something happens that changes her safe routine.
Die Parallelstrasse / The Parallel Street (1962, Ferdinand Khittl)
The number 188 appears, then the screen goes completely black. We hear noises and words spoken in many tongues. Then as suddenly as it all began we find ourselves in a poorly lit room, photographed in black and white, where a clerk stationed at his desk tells five men, seemingly researching documents that this is the end of the first session. Soon, after the credits are done rolling, we're told that this is the end of "Part 2".
The clerk is our only direct link into an logical comprehension of what is appearing before our eyes. In the early minutes of the film he confesses to us his sorrow over how the five men cannot comprehend the documents are mirrors of their own existence. He comments on their futile efforts to make sense of what's before them. How they have made a meaningless chart and made rules that comes to nothing. He notes that they will fail, like all before them, and that at the end of the last 90 minute session their lives will end.
And after this introduction "part 3" may commence as the five men goes through document 189, 190, and so on in the hope of reaching the last document 310 before their time is up. The documents themselves are segments filmed in color covering parts of the world, the human mindset, human constructions, etc. usually with an attached set of information the clerk reads out. We are now to follow the men try to make sense of what's put before them and the discussions they have between them. Their tone is calm, and relatively collected.
Whether or not the exercise is an allegory of life and the human existence can be debated, I felt this was the most comprehensible solution, but this is about so much more than simple answers. I cannot underline many enough times what a unique experience this is. It harbors an obscure sense of poetic beauty, that much like the documents explored are slightly out of our comprehension. Be it an astute beauty of life, a melancholy feeling of being lost or simply the joy of watching and partaking in such an astonishing artistic creation/experience, this movie manages to cover so much emotion, and perhaps even information, without ever really revealing its core or giving us something we can easily grasp and categorize.
The fact that it consciously incorporates into our minds that this is the last part of a larger picture was also something I could not easily shake, and it stayed on my mind throughout. First I thought it was a negative, a form of unnecessary confusion, but now, in retrospect, I view it differently. It not only creates a craving for more, but it creates a sense of claustrophobia, and in a lesser sense bewilderment. With the exception of one re-evaluated document you see none of the 187 first documents, and the exercise itself is a mystery, we know nothing about the surrounding situation and reasoning behind what we see. I found this to create an incredibly strong experience for me. The Parallel Street is a film I will never forget.
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