• First Film Competition  
  • International Competition


Lilith Kraxner, Milena Czernovsky

Lilith Kraxner Milena Czernovsky
Who is Beatrix? Or rather: what is Beatrix doing? We see her playing, daydreaming with a giant inflatable ball, absent-mindedly watching the TV, washing, watering the garden, taking a bath, biting into a grape, entertaining friends, observing every tiny detail of the world she lives in. Maybe, she mostly does nothing. She’s spending time in an empty house over the summer. For their first opus, Lilith Kraxner & Milena Czernovsky engage in an art of portraiture where nothing is explained, where words are absent and the original intention is to connect a body with a setting, a body with a possible narrative. The film reveals possibilities, suggests situations and the beginnings of desire. A tightly framed portrait, shifting our attention to a hand, the corner of a table or a piece of wall. The concept of the film gradually becomes apparent: to unframe, never revealing everything, leaving grey areas, observing – sometimes with a touch of humour – barely formed movements, described in detail with a hint of triviality. We enter into the intimacy of this solitary young woman, who remains an enigma. This is Beatrix, alone with herself. Frame after frame, the film sketches out the intimate portrait of a woman and her doubts, steering clear of elucidation. A huis-clos where she wanders from room to room as the house becomes, as we understand, a space that represents a future to be inhabited. It is also an image, as revealed by the scansion of the scenes where Beatrix contemplates herself in the mirror, adjusting her clothing, scrutinising her body. Finding a place, creating an image, opening up the possibilities of a narrative.
(Nicolas Feodorof)

Interview with Lilith Kraxner et Milena Czernovsky

Beatrix is your first collaboration. How did this project begin?
We have always worked together and supported each other in our creative processes. Yet, Beatrix is our first feature length film together and the first project for which we applied for funding. The idea for Beatrix originated in an ongoing dialogue between the two of us. We began entrusting each other with intimate stories of our everyday lives, moments of solitude, of feeling unobserved. We asked ourselves how our own self-image and the images imposed on us externally differ from each other. How does the way others see us affect how we see ourselves? And what happens to us in the absence of social constraints?

Beatrix is the main character, and you focus almost exclusively on her, her intimacy, despite some scenes with people from outside. Furthermore, it is a female figure, and a female body. Can you comment on these decisions? And the choice of her name? A mischievous or ironic evocation of Dante’s Beatrice?
Our intention was not to invent a story, but rather to create a character, whom we wanted to portray at a seemingly arbitrary point in her life. We came up with Beatrix. To us, Beatrix embodies a generation that is characterized by boundless possibilities, that often lead to an aimless search. Overwhelmed by the freedom of choice, she chooses to do nothing at all. She begins to confront the imposed ideals and societal expectations that have come to shape her being, slowly developing into an unadulterated self. As a witness to Beatrix’ process of self-discovery, one starts to get a sense of her – raw and unfiltered, while also detecting the roles she slips in and out of, when in the presence of others. We did not want to tell the story of a heroine. We observe Beatrix drinking, sleeping, eating – actions that are usually left untold. We wanted to linger in these moments, giving them space and time to become part of non-narrative examinations of everyday life. The name for BEATRIX was inspired by a short story of
the Austrian author Ingeborg Bachmann, Probleme, Probleme, where the main character Beatrix is too exhausted to participate in social life. Having the privilege to lie in bed all day, she seems to only worry about her hair. We both were very intrigued by this seemingly unappealing character and chose to name our protagonist after her.

How did you work with Eva Sommer who embodies Beatrix?
Eva Sommer is a performance artist with whom we collaborated before and already had in mind while writing the script. We spent a lot of time discussing the character together. Eva never read the script, we shot chronologically, always prepared her well and tried to give her the space to improvise and react to the situation. The foundation for this way of working together was unconditional trust.

Many situations evoque childhood, its plays and games, as well as the coming of age. Why focus on this period of life?
We decided to focus on this period of life, on some level, probably because we can both identify with it. Yet, we do not see this film or period of life as coming of age because we think that one never really comes of age, but that it is rather an ongoing process of self-discovery. Beatrix is living through a time in her life in which a lot of things are uncertain, which on some level intensifies her need to find out who she
is. Still, we feel this search is not connected to a specific age but is rather defined by a certain curiosity, a willingness to play, to testing one’s boundaries. We wanted to highlight this playfulness by focusing on the moments Beatrix is left to herself. For us, there is something almost adventurous in these moments of solitude that are characterized by a thin line between boredom, play and intimacy.

Few words, a specific attention to gestures, to frames, and a temporality both stretched and elliptic. Can you comment on this formal approach?
Rather than focusing on spoken language or dialogues, we wanted to give centre stage to Beatrix ́ body and her actions, which become performative through our gaze. Our intention was to create space for interpretation, paying attention to nonverbal interactions, for Beatrix to become a projection surface. The viewers should have the possibility to include their own experiences and feelings – to fill in the gaps of
the before, the after, and the in-betweens. The story then becomes about the things left unseen and unheard, about that which lies between each individual frame.

How did you choose the setting, that is to say this house? How did you conceive its place?
The house you see in the film was the house in which we were living at that time. As we didn’t know if the project would receive the funding until the second day of shooting, it was kind of a practical decision to shoot there. However, we tried to transform the house into an unfamiliar space for us. An abandoned space that slowly comes to life through Beatrix’ presence, while at the same time revealing glimpses of the existence of someone else living there before her. We decided to locate the whole narration in and around one house to give the viewers the opportunity to really dive into the microcosm that Beatrix slowly builds for herself. It was important to us that the house
slowly develops and changes throughout her stay, just as Beatrix herself does. To intensify this immersion into her world we also chose a close and narrow framing.

The choice shooting on 16mm ?
We decided to shoot on 16mm because it was particularly suitable for conveying our artistic vision. Due to the limited amount of material, every moment of shooting became precious. Especially for Eva Sommer every single scene carried the attention of an unrepeatable mini performance. And also for us it meant that we had to be fully focused while shooting. On top of this, obviously, we love the colors and the look of the filmmaterial.

Interviewed by Nicolas Feodoroff

  • First Film Competition  
  • International Competition

Technical sheet

Austria / 2021 / 95’

Original version : German.
Subtitles : English.
Scipt : Lilith Kraxner, Milena Czernovsky.
Photography : Antonia de la Luz Kašik.
Editing : Lilith Kraxner, Milena Czernovsky.
Sound : Benedikt Palier.
Casting : Eva Sommer, Katharina Farnleitner, Marthe de Crouy-Chanel.
Production : Lilith Kraxner, Milena Czernovsky, Lara Bellon.
Distribution : Sixpackfilm.