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Review: Museum Hours

Museum Hours is a slow-moving, alternative film, but do its cultural insights outweigh the lack of action?

 

Museum Hours was an ambitious production, set predominately in an art museum and a hospital in Austria. As a result, there was a serene but sometimes painful sense of quiet throughout the film. The main character Johann, a curator at the museum, opens the film with the statement ‘I had my share of loud so now I have my share of quiet’; the juxtaposition of the hospital and the museum settings does draw some interesting parallels between the two. Both are presented as transient entities, set apart from the real world and outside of real time. For the character of Anne, summoned to Austria to take care of a very sick cousin, the museum acts as a place of refuge, comfort and distraction, and it is here that she meets Johann and the two become friends.

The pace of the film was very slow and reminiscent of a trip to a museum. The dialogue was spaced out by periods of quiet, much like the gaps in stimulation and information when moving from one museum exhibit to the next. During these gaps in action, montages of artwork from the museum are presented to the viewer and accompanied by music, providing a detailed insight into Austrian culture and history. It is this that was most pleasingly attractive about the film: it really gave a fresh insight into another culture. The film also had an added multi-lingual dimension, as the main character thinks in German but speaks in English – a very interesting and unexpected element.

Museum Hours also raised some interesting points about art museums and the bonds formed between people and artwork, in the present day and throughout history. The director was also successful in conveying the feeling that museums are magical places. Although at times the slow moving storyline ground to a halt and it felt as though more action needed to take place, this allowed for very peaceful and effortless viewing.

The film is specialised towards a very niche audience, so it’s not a generic crowd pleaser. However, it’s definitely worth a watch if you like slightly more alternative films, relaxing and uncomplicated narrative and insights into different cultures.

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