‘Museum Hours’ celebrates life and culture

by Isabella Place

Writer and director Jem Cohen’s part foreign, part art film “Museum Hours” emphasizes the emotions displayed when it comes to visitor-employee relations at a museum. Chance encounters that lead to general conversations spark friendships while establishing a quiet setting at the museum, deeming it a sanctuary.

Johann (Bobby Sommer), a considerate museum guard, makes friends with a seemingly lost stranger, Anne (Mary Margaret O’Hara). Johann takes her under his wing and provides the solace she needs while waiting for her estranged relative to wake up from a coma.

Cohen’s combination of a scripted scenario and his genuine appreciation for art and art history is what makes this film engaging. Jump cuts to random works of art actually found at the Kunsthistorisches art Museum in Vienna provide the viewer with pensive moments allowing them to absorb themselves in the art or whatever somber situation they are personally dealing with. Art is subjective, just as this film could easily be about everything and nothing all at the same time. “Museum Hours” can be as dull to some viewers as the paint on walls or as inspiring as any of artist Brueghel’s paintings. Bottom line: Appreciating this motion picture is all about personal perception.

Johann enhances the film, acting as a physical narrator to his newfound friend, Anne, and the viewers. When he takes her on a tour of the city, he states, “It felt good to see my city anew, to go somewhere for no reason other than to show it to someone else, and then realize I hadn’t been there in years and actually liked these places.”

The cinematography is arranged to mimic the scatterbrain people often have when they’re wandering about, waiting for time to pass because that’s the only option they have. Eavesdropping is permitted and encouraged, especially when a potent conversation involving difference of opinions delivered by a museum docent, played by Ela Piplits, illuminates a gallery in the most intellectually powerful, yet most graceful manner. It doesn’t feel like watching a scripted flick-instead, it’s as if the viewer is living vicariously through the characters. “Museum Hours” sends a message to pay close attention and appreciate everything, both in and outside of a museum.

Information about “Museum Hours” can be found at museumhoursfilm.com.

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