Abendland: A Deadpan European Rebuttal to Samsara

A documentary composed of vignettes of Europe by night, shot as though through the eyes of some inquisitive, unobtrusive, silent ghost, Abendland is fringed with scenes of aspirant immigrants turned away at the continent’s door. The rest of the film raises the question of why exactly anyone would want to come to this place. The film’s principal subjects are the Eurozone’s service and security industries, showing a continent busy saving its citizens from themselves: There’s material from a phone-in psychoanalysis center, the dumping grounds of London’s surveillance-camera feed, and the detox tent at some massive Biergarten—like much of the film, mordantly funny in a kind of pursed-lips, arched-eyebrows way. Director Nikolaus Geyrhalter, steadily working since 1994 and most famed for Our Daily Bread , his 2005 survey of industrial food production, is operating along parallel lines with fellow border-jumping Austrians Ulrich Seidl and Michael Glawogger, recording under-the-hood images of the global economy’s workings. Abendland was shot in Austria, Germany, the UK, Spain, and unidentifiable other nations—though by the climactic scene, in which the camera shoulders across the endless dance floor at a coliseum rave, you notice that you no longer have any idea where you are, and that, what’s more, it doesn’t really matter.