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Razzennest (2022) Review

Razzennest is the latest film from Johannes Grenzfurthner, the director of Masking Threshold, one of the most divisive films on last year’s festival circuit. Now if you read my review of it you may well be asking, as I did, why would I go near another one of his films? Because Razzennest is an entirely different type of film, and I was curious to see if I had a better time with one of his films that didn’t seem to be out to piss people off from the start.

Razzennest takes the form of “South African enfant terrible filmmaker and artiste-cineaste” Manus Oosthuizen (Michael Smulik, Moonbound, Another Obe Opens) being interviewed by Babette Cruickshank (Sophie Kathleen Kozeluh) a Rotten Tomatoes certified reviewer and curator of the “Indie Incest” program of a local festival.

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The reason for the interview is the recording of a commentary track for the Blu-ray release of Oosthuizen’s latest film Razzennest which is due to make its debut at Fantastic Fest 2022. It’s described as a feature-length documentary about the Thirty Year’s War, a bloody European conflict that took place between 1618 to 1648. But, as the viewer soon comes to realize, it’s simply a collection of random scenes that look suspiciously like stock footage.

It’s quite amusing to hear Oosthuizen letting his ego run unchecked, peevishly complaining about the pronunciation of his name or the pace of the recording. And even more amusing to hear him talk in circles while never answering any questions or saying much of anything concrete.

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Similarly entertaining is hearing Cruickshank do the same thing, stringing together sentences full of buzzwords but devoid of substance while getting basic facts wrong. Anyone who has read more than a handful of reviews, especially ones written by critics better known for their style than substance, will be quite familiar with this kind of coverage. And in the middle of it all, arguments over credits, random stories with little to do with the film and all the other ephemera you find in these tracks.

Just at the point where this would start to wear thin, Razzennest changes direction as life begins to imitate art and the content of the film starts having an effect on the characters in the real world. Or what would be the real world if this wasn’t an entirely fictional piece. It becomes a somewhat meta piece of horror while maintaining its sense of humour, a sense of humour that I was surprised to hear work in an appropriately shrill quote from, of all films, The Greasy Strangler.

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Of course, with its disconnect between what is on the screen and what is heard, Razzennest could be accused of being the very kind of film it’s sending up, Grenzfurthner’s previous film, Masking Threshold certainly was. Similarly, incorporating nods to deliberate trash films like The Greasy Strangler echoes Cruickshank’s referencing mainstream films amidst all of her talk of what high art Oosthuizen’s film is.

Perhaps the best way to approach Razzennest however is to treat it like a Monty Python film. Enjoy the shots at the obvious targets, don’t try to read too much into the rest of it, and have a good laugh as everything devolves into chaos. Taken that way, there’s a lot of fun to be had. Not enough to get me to give Masking Threshold another viewing, but a lot of fun nonetheless.

Razzennest, both the real and fictional versions, made its world premiere at this year’s Fantastic Fest 2022 as part of the Burnt Ends showcase of eccentric independent cinema. You can check the film’s website for future showings. In the meantime, if there’s anything like this to watch, FilmTagger may know about it.

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