Director: Fridolin Schönwiese
Documentary filmmakers, like biographers, can become enraptured by their subject and long-term projects like Seven Up! and the recent Right There Part 2 shown at the Mom Film Fest 2022, reflect the filmmaker’s attachment to the people they watch grow and develop. It Works II, showing at the Fragments Film Festival 2022, is very much of this model and Director Fridolin Schönwiese returns to Gerald, Michael and Valentin first captured in a short 14 years ago in 1998 and now followed through several months in a 100-minute follow up.
Eschewing narration, screen cards and any deterministic overarching story, Schönwiese cuts between the experiences of three men as the audience is shown different elements of their daily lives. Michael who works in industry helps to run the accounts and management of a business, seen checking transaction details and supplier queries while in his free time playing sport, particularly enjoying athletics at his local track. Gerald is a filmmaker himself and musician, attending the cinema with his gran and creating his own music videos using a tablet.
Schönwiese shows his subjects navigating everyday experience, buying watches or attending village festivals which Valentin does alone, often observing from the side-lines while others dance and socialise, although he seems to enjoy the atmosphere, buying drinks, starting conversations with strangers and moving to the music, often conscious of the camera on him, relishing the change to showcase his factual knowledge of ships and how to pick applies in the orchard.
Schönwiese’s film is designed to celebrate the lives of the three men it captures, the everyday experience of living with a disability and their lack of limits in achieving the things they want to, but without a structure, It Works II doesn’t delve much beyond those headline statements, capturing fragments and moments across these months but not much of their personalities, wider family lives or the context in which they exist.
Hearing more from the people around Gerald, Valentin and Michael would support Schönwiese’s thesis, because knowing the challenges or difficulties, even just the area in which they live would make their attitude and achievements even more inspirational. It is essential, of course, that these stories are told from the protagonist’s perspective and Schönwiese uses the camera to ensure the audience sees that but there is space for reflection too which would help to shape the documentary and its purpose.
For anyone who hasn’t seen the original film then the purpose of Schönwiese’s otherwise entirely empathetic film might be hard to follow and can make the film seem longer than it is as a succession of activities play out. Individually interesting and engaging though they may be, It Works II leaves us with the knowledge that these are full and interesting lives, but we don’t know them much better 100-minutes later.
It Works II is screening at the Fragments Film Festival 2022.