6 October 2008


The press may constantly highlight our country’s economic and social inadequacies, but it seems we have a lot to be grateful for after seeing Import/Export, a beautifully shot look at just how bleak life can be, and the lengths people go to to afford so little. Olga leaves her baby and the Ukraine behind, to find work as a nanny, a “live” on-demand internet porn worker, then eine Putzfrau (cleaning lady) on a geriatric ward. Director Ulrich Seidl authenticates these painfully affecting scenes by using what are ostensibly non-actors; frail old ladies muttering blindly to god, and playful men who pinch the nurse’s bottom. He switches, vignette-like, between Olga and Paul, machine-like in physicality and searching for personal “harmony”, but instead stuck working for his stepfather, a coarse man who tries to prove that money is power by taunting a 19 year-old prostitute. Seidl never shies away from discomfort or uncompassionate characterisation, focusing in on the violence inherent in desire (a customer riles angrily at Olga to “stick [her] finger in [her] asshole”), the fallen glory of old men having their nappies changed, and teeth removed as punishment, and the heartbreaking sight of Olga singing through silent tears about a starry wonderful life down the phone to her baby. Makes you think how much worse things really could be.


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