Two twenty-something women navigate Austrian city life in this meditative character study playing FiDMarseilles


Source: Panama Films


Dirs/scr: Lilith Kraxner, Milena Czernovsky. Austria. 2024. 84mins

“Notice and accept this moment,” a meditation app advises Sasha (Natasha Goncharova) as she lies down to sleep for the night. It could also be an instruction to us from Austrian writing/directing duo Lilith Kraxner and Milena Czernovsky, urging us to pay attention to the various episodes of their dual character study, which arrives in fragments as it follows Sasha and another young woman, Errol (Leonie Bramberger), going about their lives. 

Less about plot development than the characters’ quotidian existence

In the same vein as their 2021 debut feature Beatrix, which offered an elliptical portrait of a young woman, Bluish feels like a Generation Z cousin of Millennial mumblecore, the script stripped away so that we divine these young people’s moods as much by gesture and look as talk. The film has its world premiere at FiD Marseille after winning the Screen International award at C EU Soon work-in-progress programme at Rome’s MIA market. While its meditative nature makes it firmly an arthouse affair, it is liable to hold particular appeal to those from the same generation as its protagonists. Further festival play seems likely.

Shot in Vienna (although the German-speaking city is never mentioned by name) Sasha, whose first language is Russian and who mostly communicates with the locals in English, appears to have just moved into a new apartment with her barely glimpsed boyfriend. Errol, meanwhile, lives alone, and we will see her cautiously embark on a date with a woman she has matched with online as her story progresses. 

Bluish is less about plot development than the characters’ quotidian existence in the liminal space that exists between teenagedom and fully fledged adulthood. They are frequently seen moving from place to place, on foot or by bus, inbetweeners on a quest for something that remains ambiguously unspecified. The moments of connection Errol experiences are often unexpected but intense – a blinking game played with a child in a doctor’s waiting room or her date suddenly brushing her hair. Errol’s story is the more fully developed of the two, although Sasha occupies a similar psychological landscape. While Errol’s reactions are introverted, Sasha expresses herself more physically in two dance sequences in which she suddenly blooms into emotional colour.

The directors also incorporate performance elements more generally. In a prologue of sorts, a trio of singers – part of Les Reines Prochaines (The Next Queens) music collective – asks questions, including, “Are you crazy?”, “Are you normal?” These too, are ambiguous; they could be an inquiry from the older generation of the young or simply the sort of personal reflection everyone experiences as they are growing up. There are also moments where we briefly enter a virtual reality environment – sequences from Rebecca Merlic’s mulitplatform project ‘Glitchbodies’ – a reminder of how close self-scrutiny and technology are for a younger generation whose phones are seen to be constantly at hand.

Shot with a 1.33 ratio, the palette captured by Antonia de la Luz Kasik is dominated by the blue of the film’s title. It’s there in the colour of the nail polish Sasha wears, the light cast at night from a mobile phone screen and the dominant tone of the swimming pool where Errol goes to relax. It’s also stitched into the emotional fabric of the film, from its cool, wintry setting to the sense of a longing for connection which emanates from both women.

While in many films the square ratio is employed to create a feeling of confinement, here the characters frequently dip in and out of the frame. The camera might be static but there is almost always a feeling of movement. It generates the hopeful sensation that these women have a freedom to do what they want, no matter how constrictive the world might sometimes be. Errol and Sasha are both going places, even if neither of them are quite there yet.

Production companies: Panama Film 

International sales: Square Eyes

Producers: Lixi Frank, David Bohun

Cinematography: Antonia de la Luz Kasik

Production design: Hanga Balla, Pauline Stephan

Editing: Lilith Kraxner, Milena Czernovsky

Music: Benedikt Palier

Main cast: Leonie Bramberger, Natasha Goncharova