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Austria, 1993 (MIFF 1994, Documentaries)

Director: Astrid Ofner

This film has a secret. The secret is not what you watch but how you watch it. In as much as the meaning of 'documentary' is concerned, Now And All Time is pure. Rich natural light, beautiful extended shots, crisp sound, austere surroundings and a laconic pace all combine to take us right into the contemplative and ultimately routine convent life.

Shot in 35mm and quite hypnotic in its own way, the film forces us (almost subconsciously) to examine the lives and motivations of these extraordinarily devoted women as the women themselves do. However, despite the visual richness and the vibrant colour, a strange emptiness exists, particularly with the lack of communication between the nuns (there is virtually no talking throughout) and their seemingly pointless yet serene duties.

The pace of the film reflects the strangely routine (almost robotic) life of the nuns while the use of long static shots compels us to examine the entire environment, both audially and visually, so bringing us entirely into their world via a filmed texture which you'd feel if you touched the screen.

This is not your average documentary, its form is tightly constructed yet its pace is slow, it is not dogged by narrative comment and so shows a true (as can be) reflection of convent life, and there is no 'climax' or judgement reached. One day blurs into another. Is there a now, a yesterday or even a tomorrow for these women or is it all just one very long day?

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