Abendland (2011)
8/10
An eyeopening fly on the wall documentary about what's going on around Europe at night
25 January 2012
I rented this film online without expecting anything. I was surprised that IMDb had no information, reviews or comments regarding this film. The trailer (clip of the film) didn't give away much but I decided to go ahead anyway after reading about the director's previous film. I'm not even sure what the title means, but I think it might have something to do with nightlife, as the whole film is shot at night.

It's showing a glimpse into all walks of life working at night in Europe without any voice over or titles explaining what you're watching. It's like you're spying on the scene and the director gives you a lot of space - still camera shots, wide angle etc to comfortably observe without distracting you or forcing his own opinion on you. This is the truest form of observational documentary.

You find yourself daydreaming whilst watching parts, such as a shot of a hospital room with an incubator which then cuts to a conference room inside the UN where politicians are arguing about what language they can communicate in before discussing EU military operations in the Middle East. It's quite fascinating as you rarely get to sit and watch this kind of thing as if a fly on the wall.

The film continues to intrigue as it moves on into other nighttime activities, - following waitresses around the Oktoberfest (presumably in Munich), paramedics picking up an injured person and taking them to hospital, CCTV security operators in London watching a huge wall of monitors, the news teams in the UK, the mail sorting office, the police doing shooting practice on a blue-screen target, a helpline in the Netherlands, a pornstar doing a webcam show in Prague, a crematoriumin Germany, police evacuating hundreds of protesters stopping a train carrying what could be nuclear material, an immigration officer talking to someone who just got denied entrance and has to go back, security guards patrolling a huge boarder fence in Spain and finally a fantastic steadicam shot through a huge rave...

You're never told where these places are or given any information other than what you see through the lens so you have to make your own judgements about what's going on and where it might be. This sounds frustrating but it makes the film much more interesting.

The location access is impressive and the quality of shots/sound is very good. Although I think this will be mainly appealing to people into documentary/social films, I think it's well worth picking up and leaves you feeling a kind of mix of appreciation and unease of what goes on around Europe whilst you're probably sleeping!
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