A Split-Narrative Character Study
When a young woman is murdered and her body dismembered and dumped across Vienna, two suspects emerge without a clear motive: Christian, a law student who sells concessions part-time at a movie theatre, and Alex, an image-obsessed rapper/boxer. “Agony” is a split-narrative character study, comparing two distinct male millennial personalities whose stories are unconnected and do not overlap aside from their both living in Vienna. The viewer is presented with questions of machismo and sexual identity. The film is based on the true story of a shocking murder.
A film student tells the story of two young men in Vienna who are not quite comfortable with their emotions. One escapes into martial arts and angry rap songs. The other looks strangely introverted until he stabs his new girlfriend in bed and immediately distributes their dismembered body in the garbage containers across the city.
This is a perfidious horror film that is atmospherically dense. Filmmaker David Clay Diaz brings us a very special film that follows the lives of two young men who could hardly be more different from a purely superficial point of view. Christian (Samuel Schneider) is an always accurate and remarkably reserved law student. By contrast, Alex (Alexander Srtschin) has just completed his military service and is now into pseudo Gangsta rap, Thai boxing, protein drinks disco. Diaz juxtaposes alternates scenes with the two protagonists with hard cuts and long fades in an initially almost clumsy but effective way. (Christian in the lecture hall. Alex in the solarium. Christian playing the timpani. Alex boxing. Christian with his girlfriend. Alex rapping about his ex).
We begin to wonder if there is a relationship between the two men and we soon understand that both suffer from their lives without real reasons. They both seem to be under pressure but we do not know where this came from. Diaz spreads things with great clarity, but without any further explanation to the viewer, who can think about what he sees.
Alex is a thug and does not want to be anything else while Christian is desperately trying to build up a façade, behind which is a vacuum. Both Christian and Alex suffer from emotional hypothermia, and it is difficult to decide what proportion their environment contributes to this and what they themselves project into their environment. They are both ticking time bombs.
They react to the expectations of their fellow human beings. One is the son of a policeman and seemingly gay, striving to preserve a handsome appearance, the other is almost crushed by the expectations of his milieu and has great fears of failure, so he appears unapproachable and callous. In the end, one of the two will have committed a murder.
Diaz suggests to his audience first two separate worlds, which could hardly be more contradictory from the different milieus. As the film progresses, the director links the seemingly insignificant, fleeting and inconspicuous moments to an increasingly unpleasant character portrait of two lost, helpless souls. More than that I cannot say except that the images are likely to haunt the viewer hours after the film’s ending.