What a family can do

"I'm Sybille. I've been going to psychotherapy for six years now. My childhood comes up a lot. How am I supposed to talk about my childhood when I can barely remember it?" Nonetheless, Sybille Bauer faces this challenge as a filmmaker. She is composed as she describes the most influential events of her younger years or lets a young girl’s voice report on them in the form of a school essay. What is past, forgotten, repressed, she makes present through the voice-over, in fragmentary snapshots that condense to the image of a dysfunctional family: a mother from whom too much is expected, and who expects too much, who wants to preserve the appearance of a perfect family at any cost, a withdrawn father who is deteriorating mentally and physically, and in the end is entirely absent, and a child who literally bends herself out of shape for the parents’ love and develops symptoms of various chronic illnesses.

The indissoluble relationship of psyche and physical constitution also becomes visually manifest when the traumatic memories are linked with dreamlike associative, virtuously illuminated, black-and-white slow-motion shots of (primarily) female bodies and faces: beautiful and at first glance flawless surfaces, which in the context of what is told become cracked and point to traces of pain, disciplining, and manipulation hidden beneath them.

With her personal memory work, the filmmaker brings herself into play even more radically this time—in contrast to earlier works, which focus on her family’s stories of life and suffering—however, without fully laying bare her parents or herself in an exhibitionist self-disclosure. By narrating fragmentarily, hinting, refusing a closed narrative, Sybille Bauer is successful at the abstract transfer of her individual fate. Going beyond the self and the family portrait, the cinematic essay reflects on a woman’s experience of control and subjugation, which is acted out and dealt with mainly through body and language. (Michelle Koch)

Translation: Lisa Rosenblatt

Orig. Title
Was eine Familie leisten kann
30 min
Orig. Language
Sybille Bauer-Zierfuß
Sybille Bauer-Zierfuß
Judith Benedikt, Klemens Koscher
Lisa Zoe Geretschläger
Sound Mix
Eric Spitzer
Dramaturgical Advisor
Gabriele Mathes, Constantin Wulff, Mario Schlembach
Visual Effects
Matthias Halibrand
Colour Correction
Lee Niederkofler
Sybille Bauer-Zierfuß
Emma Dittlbacher, Sybille Bauer-Zierfuß
Production Manager
Emma Berger
Production Assistance
Emma Berger
Speech Manager
Wolf-Maximilian Liebich
Supported by
Otto Mauer Fonds, Wien Kultur MA 7, BKA - innovative film
Available Formats
DCP 2K flat (Distribution Copy)
Aspect Ratio
Sound Format
5.1 surround
Frame Rate
25 fps
Color Format
Digital File (prores, h264) (Distribution Copy)
Festivals (Selection)
Graz - Diagonale, Festival des österreichischen Films
Linz - Crossing Europe Film Festival