Outside Noise

Directed by: Ted Fendt
Distributed by: Mubi

Written by Michael Clawson

Written, directed, and edited by Ted Fendt, “Outside Noise” lyrically splits the difference between conventional narrative filmmaking and the avant-garde. It’s a movie held together by the thinnest of plots, but more accurate than saying very little happens in it story-wise is saying that a lot of things almost happen. Rife with sources of potential drama, “Outside Noise” is charming for how it skirts conflict at every turn.

It begins in New York City, where Daniela (Daniela Zahlner, who co-penned the script with Fendt and Mia Sellman) is wrapping up a visit with a friend. From NYC, Daniela travels to Berlin to see a different friend, Mia (Sellman), and then makes her way home to Vienna. There, Daniela plays host to Mia and another friend named Natascha (Natascha Manthe). All three women are thirty-something year-old grad school types, and rather than thoroughly fleshing them out as characters in a traditional manner, Fendt provides mere snippets of information about the women at this particular moment in time: Daniela and Mia are both afflicted with insomnia; Daniela is interviewing for a job in museum exhibition installation; Natascha might not finish her thesis on trauma. Mia and Daniela’s sleeplessness is in keeping with the film’s pleasantly languorous pace.

We don’t see Daniela’s job interview, possible tension between Daniela and Natascha about borrowed money is downplayed, and the fate of Natascha’s thesis is left unknown. Fendt declines to pursue these dramatic avenues in favor of more narratively trivial scenes. His warmly observational direction is at its loveliest when we’re watching the women simply walking around Vienna and Berlin, their origin point and destination registering as entirely beside the point. Which is to say that “Outside Noise’s” form serves its plot to the precise same degree that its plot is leveraged for form’s sake. As with most experimentally-inclined works, the movie might not have been able to support itself had it been any longer, but at 61 minutes, it’s an intriguing and beautifully shot evocation of listlessness.

“Outside Noise” Trailer

Michael Clawson is a member of the Seattle Film Critic Society you can follow his passion for film on Letterboxd.

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