Matter Out of Place examines how we dispose of our trash
Austrian director Nikolaus Geyrhalter examines how we dispose of our rubbish in the fascinating and oddly beautiful documentary Matter Out of Place, which has its world premiere on Wednesday in the International Competition of the Locarno Film Festival. But with a broader perspective, he’s trying to better understand humanity and the impact it’s having on the planet, he says diversity.
The locations of the film are diverse: from the mountains of Switzerland to the coasts of Greece and Albania, to an Austrian waste incineration plant, then to Nepal and the Maldives and finally to the deserts of Nevada for the Burning Man event.
When choosing the locations, the sound was just as important as the visuals. Geyrhalter says he invested heavily in capturing high-quality surround sound designed for playback with Dolby Atmos, then carefully fine-tuned the results in terms of sound design and sound mixing during post-production. The sound works hand in hand with the cinematography, which was shot on a RED 4K camera. “To tell this kind of story, we need these pretty long, wide-angle shots to actually make the scenery a kind of stage,” says Geyrhalter. Aerial photography with drones is also used, but from a fixed position, as if they were a tripod in the air, he says. The overall goal is to immerse the viewer in the environment so that they “forget they’re in the cinema; they really become a part of it [the landscape].”
Filming began with Burning Man in 2019, where we see volunteers acting on the event’s philosophy of “Leaving No Trace” by picking up every piece of junk. A shoot in Greece followed, which had to be canceled due to the pandemic. A break of almost a year followed before locations were opened again. “It was quite complicated from a production point of view and it took us a year longer than expected,” says Geyrhalter. The film took over four years to complete when it would normally have taken two to three years.
As with previous films – like 2019’s ‘Earth’, winner of the Berlinale Forum Ecumenical Jury Prize and the International Award at Sheffield Intl. Documentary film festival – the research process did not end with the approval of the project, new locations were sought as the shooting progressed. However, due to the pandemic, some of the desired locations were not accessible, but “we were able to cover all the topics we wanted to cover in alternative locations,” says Geyrhalter.
Geyrhalter’s on-site crews are small – with a core team of four to six people, including assistant director Sophia Laggner, and a translator and fixer if needed. Geyrhalter produces through his own company NGF – Nikolaus Geyrhalter Filmproduktion GmbH, which he founded in 1994, with Markus Glaser, Michael Kitzberger and Wolfgang Widerhofer as partners since 2003. The company has produced more than 70 documentary feature films and TV documentaries in the last 20 years he has won more than 150 international awards as well as several TV documentaries. The company’s feature film, Breaking the Ice, a coming-of-age queer story set in the world of ice hockey, premiered at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival.
The film’s cinematography is beautiful, but since it shows rubbish spoiling the landscape, it induces a sense of sadness. This creates a dissonance and the viewer feels conflicted. Geyrhalter also felt this when he shot these scenes, but it clarifies his subject: Mankind produces garbage faster than it can dispose of it. “We live on a beautiful planet, but I don’t think we’ll find a square meter of the surface where there’s no garbage,” says Geyrhalter. However, the director isn’t out to preach or deliver a message. “Delivering a message is boring. I think the audience will watch and think for themselves. They will probably leave the cinema quite thoughtfully. And that is much more effective and sustainable than when a filmmaker chats about his feelings or opinions.”
Geyrhalter made his film for the theater. “The cinema experience is unique, and that’s what I make films for. People will get a chance to see it in cinemas, but what you can’t avoid is it ending up on TV and streaming services; and it’s good because it reaches an audience, but if you want the whole experience, you have to go to the cinema.”
Geyrhalter has started work on a new project, working title Melt, which will look at the places that are currently covered in snow and ice but are rapidly shrinking as a result of climate change.
Worldwide sales of Matter Out of Place are handled by Autlook Filmsales.
https://variety.com/2022/film/global/locarno-matter-out-of-place-nikolaus-geyrhalter-1235337276/ Matter Out of Place examines how we dispose of our trash