Universalove (2008) dir. Thomas Woshchitz
Starring: Anica Dobra, Daniel Plier, Sascha Migge, Erom Cordeiro, Kyoichi Komoto
Director Thomas Woschitz is not to shy with his intentions – to create an abstract film about love, with no allusions toward traditional narrative. “Universalove” is symphony of emotions interconnected not through story but music and imagery.
The film intercuts a number of separate stories about the triumph and tragedy of love. We cut from New York, to Brazil, to Serbia, to Japan, to France. There’s rarely an establishing shot to tell us where we are. Location is deduced by the language the characters are speaking. Each of the stories involves a couple dealing with some form of tragedy or wistful longing for love.
The content of each vignette feels obligatory though and only serves as a makeshift coathanger on which the director can hang his grandiose emotional moments. Much of the action does not make any sense at all either. At one point a Japanese man who has been stalking a woman he doesn’t know gets stabbed by someone we never see. And the American woman at one point gets hit by car, but instead of going to the hospital her husband takes her to their home to die on the couch. Logic, smogic.
The credited co-author of the film is “Naked Lunch”, an Austrian indie rock band that provides the soundtrack throughline. The music is a melancholy rock soundscape of moaning guitars and moody pianos, “Explosions in the Sky” meets “Sigur Ros”. The filmmaker’s passion for the music is evident; unfortunately he doesn’t provide us with the imagery to match the power the music. Both the sound and picture needs to stand on its own for a film like this to work - Godfrey Reggio’s “Qatsi” trilogy being the best example.
Woshchitz’s visual style borrows from Alejando Gonzalez Inarritu (“Amores Perros”, “Babel”). The handheld grainy over-the-shoulder close-ups are also mixed with a number of slo-mo and time-lapse beauty shots. If Woschitz stuck exclusively with the stylized imagery as opposed to the grainy realism, he would have come closer to matching his soundtrack.
In the end “Universalove” is better as a music CD than the harmonious visual and auditory symphonic experience it desires to be. It’s a shame, I applaud the ambition to create such an abstraction, but by not fulfilling the potential only make me more frustrated.