A Punk Adventure towards Marxist Liberty
Though very little action or conflict occurs on screen, Daniel Hoesl’s modern pseudo-feminist character film, “Soldate Jeannette”, is filled with a quiet rage and a flippant punk attitude making it probably the most subdued film ever made about “anarchic ethos, juxtaposing reductionist roles of the modern woman in town and country and then ripping them apart”.
The camera work is carefully framed and stationary often showing characters from behind or contrasting close-ups with cold, empty urban spaces. It all begins with Fanni (Johanna Orsini-Rosenberg) trying on an expensive red dress and touring around town to various social outings. Early on she is called out for stealing two hundred thousand euro from a communal trust and it becomes very clear that her financial situation is out of control, even though she won’t acknowledge it verbally or respond emotionally to imposing reality of eviction. Her friends have
told her that she should have just married to secure her financial situation and we see this juxtaposed with her eventual preservationist decision to simply go home with a different man every night for a place to stay.
The film is very aware of the superficiality of keeping up appearances and the garish nature of social inclusion as performance of status yet it is not interested in merely making its protagonist a martyr. Instead, Fanni is revealed to be far more calculated and conniving. She travels to the remote countryside through the Alpine mountains where she finds Anna (Christina Reichsthaler), a young woman that works in a slaughterhouse and spends most of her time subjected to standard male misogyny and passive objectification.
While it’s obvious why these two women would find some sort of bond, yet we remain analytical about the on-screen happenings. We’re never invited to engage in their kinship on an emotional level, nor does anything in the film address anything resembling tenderness. Subversion and polemics are of more importance here than emotional realizations, which is a very interesting and counterintuitive choice for a movie that makes fun of the expectations imposed on women from all walks of life.
“Soldate Jeannette” shows the disillusioned failure of materialism. Director Hoesl sets up his own progressive dilemmas and focuses more on visuals than content to explore both urban and pastoral life through the two women moving past each other. The film seems to be looking at two dichotomies— bourgeois and proletariat, and humanity and nature. This binary opposition is also evident in the structure of the film. It is split into two highly postured environments: “dignified urban interiors and in bucolic landscapes during the second half.
We first meet Fanni who is a fashionable woman full of wry, icy expressions in a fancy boutique, trying on shoes and an expensive leopard-print dress which she pays for on a credit card. As she leaves the shop, she drops the newly purchased items in a trashcan. This is an omen of the rebellion to come, yet Fanni floats through her day, visiting an art gallery, napping through a matinee, going to the spa, and dining with rich friends. Soon, she is evicted from her luxurious apartment after failure to pay rent for three months and heads for the Austrian mountains and literally burns any remaining Euros she can get her hands on. After being picked up by a farmer (and soon-to-be-discovered obnoxious chauvinist), she is brought to a farming commune, Fanni and meets Anna (Christina Reichsthaler), who’s anxious to escape her life of hay and hogs. It is here that we get to a dual portrait of two women who are unsatisfied with their lifestyles; Fanni catches Anna trying on one of her dresses, and the two slowly developing a quiet friendship as they transition through opposing ideological statuses. Hoesl gives us compelling observations. The film is a brilliant takedown of materialism.