Throughout her filmography, Jessica Hausner has explored the tensions that arise between individuals and the contexts around them. Her characters are always female, and are trapped in hostile, intimidating surroundings that sway between a sense of danger and astonishment, and a state of bewilderment.
From the teenager in her debut picture, Lovely Rita (2001), to the scientist mother in Little Joe (2019), her heroines have fought to be free in a world that smothers and slowly imprisons them until they no longer have an accurate perception of the reality around them. It is then that we enter a psychic realm that opens a window on the fears and insecurities that have been with us all the time in latent form and are suddenly unleashed in fascinating ambiguity, unmasking a whole series of questions about the human condition and terror of the unknown. That may perhaps be why most of the movies by this Austrian director flirt with the genre of fantasy. The legend of the witch in the woods in Hotel or the miracle of the virgin in Lourdes, as well as the sinister allegory suggested by Little Joe about a flower that cancels out free will …
There is a very precise bond with the subconscious in Hausner’s work, perhaps due to the influence of her father, the painter Rudolf Hausner, who together with a group of surrealists founded a school of fantasy realism in Vienna. We shall never know whether what happened to the characters is part of the imaginary, suggestive realm, or is reality, but it certainly follows the most implausible of logics, rationalities and hypotheses.
Her films may appear cold, but under each layer we unearth a wealth of interpretations and suggestions that draw us into a representational world that, like a puppet theatre, speaks of such themes as repression, submission, desire and that unattainable notion of happiness.