One of us

ONEOF_2016

Stephan Richter’s ONE OF US opens with two striking images: a fourteen year old boy, dead from a bullet, lies on the freshly polished floor of an Austrian supermarket; the next image plays tricks with the mind’s eye, drawing it to think it sees Death, waiting at the checkout. These images form the film’s foundation.

Richter’s direction continues with its worrying shots. A scene shows a supermarket manager staring at CCTV monitors, watching over his shop like a shepherd, expecting the big bad wolf to arrive; and all the time whilst doing this, he checks his blood pressure with a machine, listening to the contraption’s beeps and whistles, as he scrutinises the workers cleaning the floors and stacking pristine shelves. We see multiple images of the deserted supermarket’s car park and its heavily stocked fridges. Even the title conjures up dread, as subconsciously you chant, “One of us! One of us!”

The film centres on a supermarket. Multiple characters drift in and out of the story’s focus. If there is a protagonist, then it’s Julian (Jack Hofer), the fourteen year old. He is young, bored and unsure of growing up. He plays at being cool, and befriends the wrong sort of people. He meets ex-offender Marko (Simon Morzè): baby faced, yet wise behind the eyes. When Marko bumps into his old friend Victor (Christopher Scharf), a path is paved to the fatal incident. Inside the supermarket is Michael (Dominic Marcus Singer). Older than Julian, he has trodden the same ground, and now he is trying to go straight and leave his juvenile crimes behind him, as he starts working at the supermarket. Also inside is the high blood-pressured, highly strung, over-worked shop manager: Herr Winkler (Markus Schleinzer). He is a stress bomb ready to explode and heading for a heart attack as soon as the tills close.

ONE OF US flits from character to character, and often this is a barrier in films, but with a solid script from the director, it allows each character enough space to develop and grow. Every character struggles with something, mainly a lack of money. They’re waiting, but they don’t know what for; whether it is opportunities, guidance, money or death, we feel for them in their frustration.

The youths have nothing to do but hang around, drinking and smoking weed; the ex-offender is uninspired, and will inevitably return to crime through a lack of choice. This is juxtaposed nicely with the opulence of variety in the supermarket, and then rammed home with images of a skip full of discarded food.

ONE OF US is difficult to pigeonhole and even harder to grasp in its entirety – however, this is what allows the film to stay with you. The film is a discussion on disillusioned youths, ex-offenders, poverty and much more. Far from being preachy, ONE OF US allows its message to settle into the reader with such a subtlety it kills. With a brilliant script and talented actors it’s a film that will stay in your mind.

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