Review: The Best Days(2021)

Film still from Daniel Fill’s short documentary ‘The Best Days’. Courtesy of Diagonale

The difficulty in giving up on a heart project even in the most challenging times is the core story of Daniel Fill’s short documentary The Best Days, shot in Vienna shortly before the global outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, between Christmas 2019 and mid January 2020.

The primetime of the Viennese Café Girardi is gone, and there are barely any customers to keep the business going. Nevertheless, its owner Franz, a man in his sixtees who also makes his money with windmills, and his loyal waiter Hans behave same as ever. They discuss the flavour of a Cristmas punch and ways of attracting new customers. The orders are made, the bar is kept tidy, the calculations are done, all of them passionately and without as much as complaining about the obvious lack of audience. There is only one other face we got to see inside of the bar, and it belongs to a man with a foreign accent who comes on regular basis to drink his beer and have a self-rolled cigarette or two in front of Café Girardi’s door.

The Best Days is a film about coming to terms with approaching that time in life when one should make a decision about letting it go, dropping everything one holds dear, and leaving it to the next generation to come up with its own ideas how to run a business, or maybe not run it at all. At that crossroad, emotions might be high and the spirit ocasionally low, but unbroken. There is just one very sober, practical question on the table: what should one do next – continue or not?

The sense of nostalgia of a very personal nature grows once the two protagonists leave Café Girardi to allow us to take a glimpse ‘behind the coulisses’. Nevertheless, whatever detail they reveal about their lives, even if it’s about an aggressive desease that might kill them, there is always a sense of optimism in the air. Fill underlines the feel of nostalgia with his lens in the dim, dusty light. The rooms are filled with terracotta and bronze hues that suck in the oxygen, and the feeling grows that the walls might burst from the power of existential thoughts which occupy the two men’s minds. But then, the screen gets illuminated again, and there is an immediate switch in mood.

The Best Days was screened in the (very strong) short documentary competiton of Diagonale (the festival of Austrian film) alongside 15 other titles, but considering its very specific geographic spot and the way the story of two men is told, it is unlikely that it will strike the chord with a broader international audience. On the other hand, this is a personal tribute to a place in disappearance and the people who are about to disappear with it.

Original title: Die Schönste Zeit
Country: Austria
Language: Austrian German
Year: 2021
Runtime: 26′
Written/ Directed by: Daniel Fill
Camera: Daniel Fill, Lukas Schöffel
Editor: Maria Lisa Pichler
Original Sound: Maria Lisa Pichler
Music: Sarah Maria Dragović
Sound design: Ulrich Dallinger
Sound Mix: Tone Demand e.U.
Second camera/ Colour correction: Lukas Schöffel
Producer: Maria Lisa Pichler
Supported by: MA7 Bezirk Mariahilf, Federal Ministry of Education, Science and Research of Austria