Early on in his extremely private documentary, filmmaker Ken August Meyer presents an intense close-up of his face staring straight into the digital camera. “I’m completely happy to be right here to share this story. I’m Ken,” he says by the use of introduction. “It’s good to fulfill 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 inside organs, and there’s no treatment. 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 demise — varieties the guts of the transferring Angel Applicant, receiving its world premiere at SXSW (the place it snagged the highest doc prize).
The Backside Line
Venue: SXSW Movie Pageant (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 significant 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 instructing 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 lots of his contemporaries, a “degenerate artist.” Resulting from their assaults, he had bother 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 at the very least had the good thing about figuring out his precise medical prognosis. He describes his private connection to Klee’s work as akin to “comfort from an empathetic ghost,” which provides 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 girl in a deli who, upon seeing Meyer in a frozen place and mistaking him for a model, stated to her good friend, “I believed he was actual!” For sure, she was each startled and embarrassed when Meyer all of the sudden started transferring and chatting with her. Footage from his fortieth celebration reveals 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 forestall him from trying to reside life to the fullest, together with attaining skilled success, getting fortunately married and having a daughter. Nevertheless 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 fingers, and finally, after his pulmonary operate decreased dramatically, acquired a life-saving double lung transplant. He additionally made a pilgrimage to Switzerland, visiting Klee’s last residence in Bern — the place he had been visited by the likes of Picasso and Kandinsky — and eventually seeing the artist’s later works, lots 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 last, 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 stupendous grace notice for this affecting movie.