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September 12, 2011 | by  | in Arts Film |
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Love Story

Is it a little extreme to begin a review by emphatically stating that Florian Habicht’s Love Story is the most interesting development in New Zealand cinema in over a decade? The film, though ostensibly a simple love story, casts its light on the role of cinema in the 21st century and the power of people.

Florian Habicht (documenting and acting himself) is a New Zealander living in New York. After encountering a beautiful woman on the subway, he decides to film their love story. The film, or at least the first two acts, can be divided into two distinct parts—those in which Florian the filmmaker takes his handycam walking round the streets of New York, asking ordinary New Yorkers for ideas on what to film next, and the scenes in which these suggestions are movingly or comically interpreted to create the dreamlike love story of Florian and Masha. It sounds complicated, but it’s (at least initially) gloriously simple; a love story written and filmed simultaneously, on the streets of New York.

This balance is so wonderfully simple and seductive, it lulls both the audience and filmmaker Florian into believing it might possibly be permanent. Then Masha, still ‘acting’, pauses and tells Florian, ‘you know I’m still acting’. Galatea leaves her podium, Pygmalion is bereft; Florian and his audience seem equally shocked that they could have been so gullible as to believe this state of self-perpetuating filmmaking could sustain the dream forever, but that’s the point. For both love and cinema, it is all too easy for us to get caught in self-perpetuating dreams of illusion, trapped within ourselves rather than communicating with each other.

Habicht’s film is successful because it eloquently and emotionally serves us these dreams while subtly undermining them, reminding us they can never be sustainable or true. His simple formula articulates the painful truth, that all love stories are part documentary and part fiction. This perfect dichotomy, both within the film and in real life, can never last forever.

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