Review: Besser So (2024)

Short Film Competition

Film still from “Besser so” © Schweikert/Haderer

There wasn’t a better place or moment for the Austrian premiere of Lotta Schweikert’s short drama “Besser So” (It’s Beter This Way) than Diagonale in Graz, where the temperatures reached almost 30°C in the first week of April. It was impossible to ignore the abnormality of weather conditions, the blazing sun and extreme humidity at this time of the year. Climate change became hard to deny, and the good-weather-festival going-lovers turned silent for the first time in decades. Can we speak of the final wake up call? Does our motivation go that far to turn the verbal concern into something more and invest time and heart to change things for better?

Not very likely concerning the outrage each time the activists block the roads, rail tracks or airports demanding changes. After all, we all need to go to work, take kids to school or fly to festivals abroad. What are those people thinking? We recycle, upcycle, go vegan, plant flowers and trees. Isn’t that enough? “Diverted to f**king Hamburg because some bloody climate activist glued themselves to the f**king tarmac in Berlin” wrote an otherwise very ‘woke’ colleague to me two years ago. Conclusio: yes, let them protest, but somehwere where we won’t feel the consequences. How about some nice secluded place in the woods? Even better – late at night in front of the parliament, when we can just take the tube home. That sounds like a perfect scenario. And, while we are discussing the measures to change the state of things, let’s order something on Amazon because it’s convenient and easy, while Jeff Bezos insists on dismantling the historic bridge in Rotterdam to drive out his yacht to the open sea, paying people working for him peanuts and convincing the world that nothing goes that smooth without his services.

In her student film Schweikert focues on a young activist Nora (Benita Martins) who – after throwing a can of red paint at a painting in a Viennese art museum together with her friend Lisa (Pilar Borower) – is most likely facing a two month prison sentence. What worries her most isn’t the punishment, but the end result of her statistics that she is updating frequently. The “life balance sheet” shows -100 points, and she concludes that all of it doesn’t pay off anymore. Her decision to make a dramatic statement for the climate, presented as a hypothetical act to Lisa, is born. She is given the information about a place in Poland where, due to a pipe burst in a mine, nothing grows anymore, and she silently decides to go on a journey.

Behind the script of “Besser So” is Calvin Lucas Trosien who proves his talent to show the absurdity of power that social media has over our lives: it’s quick, often aggressive reactions seconds upon any given event and the devastating consequences it may bring to even most well meant projects. At the same time, all of those platforms demand to be fed to gather followership and secure fundings. If you are deemed uncool, the money is out of the window. Nora also has to listen to the verdict on her inappropriate outfit during her gig at the museum by none less than the movement’s leader at the official meeting. “All I could see was your red jacket. We are not on a catwalk”, he goes. Disillusioned and tired, the only thing she can think of is her personal chart.

In his excellently penned article published in The Guardian on 6 February this year, Giovanni Aloi asks how many of the 38 environmental protests staged in museums in 2022 we can remember, and how much of the public support their protests gained. “Protest after protest, awareness of this media bias has led anticapitalist demonstrators into an attention-seeking trap: they are now caught in the same repetitive cycles of capitalist-induced torpor that they sought to release us all from”, he writes, pointing out that “while disruptive tactics can certainly aid some causes, they often fall short of generating change when there are issues with high awareness but low support”. National Geographic‘s Yessenia Funes begs to differ: “By tossing paint and food on the glass exterior protecting famous paintings, activists say they’re conveying a powerful message—art cannot exist on a destroyed planet.”

“Besser So” demonstrates the power of good storytelling supported by strong performances and smart directing. It might or might not change the attitude towards the climate activists, but it certainly wins many points on its deadpan way of bringing the problem close to the audiences.

Country: Austria
Year: 2024
Runtime: 24′
Directed by: Lotta Schweikert
Written by: Calvin Lucas Trosien
Producer: Ivet Castelo
Cinematography: Anna Viola Haderer
Editing: Paul Eckhart
Sound: Jon Geirfinnsson
Production Design: Sabine Müller, Laura Diessl
Costume: Rita Landgrebe
Sound Design; Fabian Hainzl
VFX: Robin Leeb
Cast: Benita Martins, Pilar Borower, Martin Rigo, Daniel Holzberg, Igor Kssala