Armut kennt viele Geschichten

Directed by Isabel Prahl

Ninety seconds for more awareness about poverty: Writer and director Isabel Prahl is telling an anecdote about social difference that is as precisely observed as it is original. She might just lay to rest the old prejudice that social, economic or political issues need long and complicated storylines in order to be understood by an audience. Prahl manages this brilliant feat by using cinematic means: An image may say more than a thousand words, but moving images, especially when they show a story contrary to the words we're being told, can indeed replace a whole novel of words. And just as some added value, it will show you just how deceptive narration can be.


The idea of the unreliable narrator, telling other characters or even the audience (usually in form of a voice-over) the supposed chain of events, while pictorially we see what really happened, is a rather traditional device. Ever since the invention of sound film has the opportunity been seized to let the two main media of film, images and sounds, contradict each other directly. It's a deft was to expose a character of lying, to create irony between what was and what could have been or to spell out the subtext of what a character wishes the world to be instead of what it actually is. But this protagonist is a completely different animal. Indeed, the beauty of this short film is the protagonist's obliviousness: He is in no way consciously telling a lie. He doesn't yet know his idealized interpretations of reality from the harsh reality itself, and because he is a child we neither feel betrayed by him nor do we see him exposed by the filmmakers. Our reaction is pity. He is an innocent liar, and what we see as the truth makes us wish for him to be able keep up his fantasy world as long as possible.


The TV spot form is here used to its maximum effect, with a situation so familiar we actually don't need to be introduced to the characters. A teacher is asking his children to tell them about their favourite event last week. We know this situation, and we expect the one-upmanship that goes along with it – everybody wants to tell the grandest story. So when the final punchline comes and the protagonist is being criticized for seemingly exaggerating his story the irony is ripe, while the claim itself is still understandable.


But its not only story and structure, the technical aspects are also first rate. Watch how DoP/editor Maximilian Kaiser clearly sets apart the two worlds in colour palette and mood; and how he sets precise cuts in the very moments the bus is gone before the mother's eyes or when the shopping bag falls down. There's no second wasted here, and with a formidable cast of children and the actress Tammy Reichling as the mother being able to convey hope and thankfulness, but also bitterness and frustration all within a single shot, ninety seconds can be more than enough to tell a lot of stories about poverty.


Interview with Isabel Prahl

More informations about The Academy of Media Arts Cologne (KHM)

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