Screened as part of NZIFF 2004

Free Radicals 2003

Böse Zellen

Directed by Barbara Albert

Austria / Germany / Switzerland In German with English subtitles
120 minutes 35mm

Director, Screenplay


Martin Gschlacht


Monika Willi


Kathrin Resetarits
Ursula Strauss
Georg Friedrich
Marion Mitterhammer


Locarno, Toronto, Vancouver, New York 2003; Rotterdam 2004


The talented young Austrian writer/director Barbara Albert (Northern Skirts) tackles an ambitious subject – chaos theory – and applies it to the daily lives of the interdependent inhabitants of a small Austrian town. Beginning her film with the now-infamous example of the butterfly flapping its wings and causing a tornado over the Gulf of Mexico, she’s less interested in tracing causality than in showing how her characters hanker to identify it in their buffeted lives. With uncanny assurance she lets us see things – life, other people, fate especially – as seen by her various characters. They don’t all see things the same way by any means. The inchoate nature of their various world-views could be said to be the film’s subject, which gives it an energetic looseness and unpredictability. (There are marvellous sequences where characters lose themselves in music.) By no means an easy ride, Free Radicals brims with vital, memorably etched characters, and a potent sense that though life is perilous and fate can be cruel, joy, too, can be found where it is least expected. — BG