‘Pixelschatten’: extreme POV from an unusually vivid angle

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Pixelschatten

Directed by Anil Jacob Kunel

Screenplay by Anil Jacob Kunel

Germany, 2011

We are all well aware of the fact that through blogs and social networks we have developed a tendency to expose to the world – or at least a selected group of so called friends – what was previously simply kept private. This revelation of absurd exposure is in and of itself nothing new to the screen. Anil Jacob Kunel‘s feature debut however strikes with unusual twists taking on a different angle, while partly struggling to really push the discourse to the next level.

Kunel‘s low budget production tells the story of 22-year old blogger Pixel (Ben Gageik) and his friends. It‘s the common coming of age story about a former close-knit group of friends from a small town, facing the fact that growing up and moving out comes with a certain level of sacrifice. As much as you want to, change is bound to happen and the extent to which we are involved in each other’s digital or real lives is a clear signifier of that. So far the story itself offers few surprises, and if it wasn‘t for the collage style of the aesthetics, the film would have little innovation to its beginning. But after settling into the wildcard-kind of story telling the film finds its beat: jumping between scenic and POV storytelling as well as diary style blogging and multi-voiced comment episodes. The film assembles itself out of numerous little snippets. It is a young and ambitious work, capturing the paradoxical nature of life, complicated by the electronic marks one leaves behind in the world wide web. The film‘s difficulties and brilliance can be found in exactly the same thing: the obvious absurdity of living an online life.

The first half of the film deals with the fleeting nature of this online social behavior and the issues one can develop with putting very personal information on display for everyone to see and comment on. While being critical about it in the first half, the online life is what becomes the glue in the second part of the story; in a way it‘s reflecting both sides of the social network coin. The discourse without ultimately taking a clear standpoint is tied to the loosening bonds of friendships. It consists of reoccurring beautiful episodes that sometimes seem a bit too composed in the face of the natural appeal of the rest of the film, yet it captures the indecisive, sometimes goalless temperament life can have. The film balances between excitement, restlessness, joy and sadness, unsure of how to assess its own topic of the life online. The blog as the overall structure keeping the narrative together, while it would be nothing without the story itself. A little on the weaker side of the film are its characters. At times they lack a forward thinking boldness the aesthetics of the film present. The women in particular are given little depth. Maybe it would have been good to turn up their volume and turn down the background brightness of the blog in return. Nonetheless Kunel‘s film is a successful debut piece, with ups, downs and its experimental shining moments.

Merle Fischer

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