Outside Noise review – slacker hangout drama follows in footsteps of Before Sunrise

Ted Fendt’s enigmatic and unhurried conversational feature offers existential issues in a casual, naturalistic narrative

Vienna was a pitstop between adolescence and adulthood for Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke in Before Sunrise, and this short, equally conversational 16mm feature by Ted Fendt picks up that baton. At one point one of its three twentysomething seekers, Mia (Mia Sellman), refers to an anthropological rites of passage theory she has picked up during her studies – and the “liminal”, uncertain phase in the middle. If insomnia, missing wallets and annoying small-press owners qualify as rites of passage, the liminal phase is where we are.

Floaty, soft-smiling insomniac Daniela (Daniela Zahlner) makes a stop in Berlin to visit Mia, a quietly intense master’s student she met while travelling in New York; the two chat about sleep issues, loll around the city, fail to go out dancing with Natascha (Natascha Manthe), a colleague of Mia’s who is thinking of bailing on her studies. Then Mia heads in the other direction, to Vienna, and life is equally indeterminate there. Daniela ponders whether a job in a museum is for her, Natascha ends up crashing at her place, and they get mansplained at by another travelling acquaintance of Mia’s at a dud house party.

Developed in conjunction with the Jeonju Cinema Project, the casual but concentrated Outside Noise has a little of Hong Sang-soo, and Éric Rohmer, wafting around its high-ceilinged Euro-apartments. Something subdued is left hanging in the pauses between the trio’s meandering exchanges, an existential weight also present in Fendt’s compositions of sun on dishevelled beds and listless urban spaces. Art and passing time, as the girls try to tease out futures for themselves, are always in the room too. The three lead actors weave around each other with a worn-in naturalism, and Fendt – as sensitive as the pendulum Mia uses to intuit her unconscious – is tuned in to the developing undercurrents. A slight but enigmatic sketch.

• Outside Noise is available on Mubi on 31 August.


Phil Hoad

The GuardianTramp

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