Serpentines of the soul

Jonas Lages, Der Tagesspiegel, 22.02.2018

Against the backdrop of Burgenland: Ludwig Wüst's road movie “Departure” in FORUM

A woman calls her brother and says her final goodbye. “I have not deserved this humiliation from you”, she says and throws her cellphone to the ground. She is sitting on a bench on the side of a country road with her packed suitcase beside her. The November light is as gloomy as her thoughts. A man in a blew overall drives by; he also has just parted from the ones closest to him. He gives her a lift in his yellow moped-car and so the two of them are united, for the duration of the film, in a momentary bond of suffering.

Ludwig Wüst's “Departure“ is defined by reduction: one day, two characters, three locations. It's a road movie of the soul. The serpentines of Burgenland, filmed like in a western, correspond with the motions of the souls of the main characters. The road leads them to an old carpenter's workshop, whose owner was supposed to make a wooden cross for the woman (Claudia Martini); her new companion does the job. After that comes the tumble-down house of her parents. The journey ends at a cargo port.

In long precise shots the two nameless and speechless characters can gently unfold. That's how Wüst locates his story entirely in the imagery of his film. The roles seem to be almost archaic. The man (Ludwig Wüst himself) is a silent protector and problem solver, a man of action, who expresses himself not though words, but though his deeds. At the same time he's just a mute companion to the woman's journey; she leads the way.

Departure: It is the wish for a new beginning, which suddenly sets itself into motion. Just as suddenly wounds open. Maybe you can't have the one without the other. Maybe you can only part with the past, if you let it go and leave it behind. The two characters experience emotional eruptions which unhinge in them an almost physical pain.

“Departure” is a film about goodbyes, a testament of last things. The scenery and the objects are at the same time witnesses of time and signs of decay. But despite the darkness this prosaic film never deteriorates into pessimism. United in silence the characters keep each other grounded. The essence of the film is summed up in a poem read by the woman: There is only one thing in this world, the poem says. Only what one heart says to another, in a speechless salute.