Early on in his extremely private documentary, filmmaker Ken August Meyer presents an intense close-up of his face staring instantly into the digicam. “I’m pleased to be right here to share this story. I’m Ken,” he says by the use of introduction. “It’s good to satisfy you. And don’t fear, it’s not contagious.”
What he’s referring to is the situation afflicting him, systemic scleroderma. It’s a life-threatening autoimmune illness that assaults the physique’s connective tissues and inner organs, and there’s no remedy. His chronicling of the illness’s development, and his discovering consolation within the later artworks of Paul Klee, who suffered from the identical situation — though it wasn’t identified till after his dying — kinds the guts of the shifting Angel Applicant, receiving its world premiere at SXSW (the place it snagged the highest doc prize).
The Backside Line
Venue: SXSW Movie Competition (Documentary Characteristic Competitors)
Director-screenwriter: Ken August Meyer
1 hour 14 minutes
Meyer labored for greater than a decade as a senior artwork director for a serious advert company, which explains the imaginative visible type infusing his movie, together with colourful graphics and animation depicting the manifestations of his situation. What additionally makes Angel Applicant totally different from so many different private documentaries about critical sickness is his essay-like examination of Klee’s life and profession, accompanied by quite a few examples of his artworks which turned extra summary as his sickness progressed.
The movie delivers a short biographical portrait of the Swiss-born artist, nicknamed the “Bauhaus Buddha” after he started educating on the artwork college situated in Weimar, Germany. He returned to Switzerland in 1933 after the Nazis rose to energy and declared him to be, like so a lot of his contemporaries, a “degenerate artist.” As a result of their assaults, he had hassle relaunching his profession in Europe and, even worse, he started struggling signs of scleroderma not lengthy afterward. The illness, which might severely restrict mobility, affected his work, which turned more and more geometric and started using heavier traces and bigger blocks of coloration.
Meyer noticed Klee’s bodily deterioration as signified by his artworks as mirroring his personal, though he not less than had the advantage of figuring out his precise medical analysis. He describes his private connection to Klee’s work as akin to “comfort from an empathetic ghost,” which supplies you an instance of the poeticism with which he tells his story.
He additionally shows a refreshing humorousness about his dire state of affairs, as evidenced by whimsical dramatic recreations of precise incidents, together with an encounter with a lady in a deli who, upon seeing Meyer in a frozen place and mistaking him for a model, stated to her buddy, “I assumed he was actual!” Evidently, she was each startled and embarrassed when Meyer out of the blue started shifting and chatting with her. Footage from his fortieth celebration exhibits him blowing out 143 candles, the quantity signifying what his medical doctors had decided to be the organic age of his deteriorating lungs.
The filmmaker recounts the development of his illness in exacting element, together with audio recordings and video footage of consultations with numerous medical consultants. His sickness didn’t stop him from trying to reside life to the fullest, together with attaining skilled success, getting fortunately married and having a daughter. However it continued to worsen, inflicting him to expertise fixed ache and a rising lack of mobility. “My birthday swimsuit feels approach too tight on me,” he says at one level, referring to his pores and skin. “Prefer it shrunk within the dryer.”
He underwent surgical procedure on his palms, and ultimately, after his pulmonary operate decreased dramatically, obtained a life-saving double lung transplant. He additionally made a pilgrimage to Switzerland, visiting Klee’s closing residence in Bern — the place he had been visited by the likes of Picasso and Kandinsky — and at last seeing the artist’s later works, a lot of them depicting angels, in individual.
Assembly the artist’s grandson, Alexander Klee, Meyer is proven a written inscription on the prime of Klee’s closing, unfinished portray, the tough translation being “Not the entire unexplained is in want of rationalization.” The road serves as each a poignant epitaph for Klee and a lovely grace notice for this affecting movie.