The linear, single-screen film In the Absence of Miracles is a fantasy-roadmovie, in which a cast, looking like it walked off a Disney-set, is paired with derailment, irony and a subtle form of aggression.
A family of five sets off at dusk, to travel somewhere by car, but soon gets lost. A man with a fish-mask on is to show them the way and enters the car, but, stranded again, on a wasteland the family is attacked by old people wearing masks from the film Casablanca.
The fishman is about to get sacrificed in a bonfire, there is an intermezzo with karate in a forest, and the youngest daughter seems to be lured into hallucination by potted plants on the road, whispering lines from anti-psychiatrist R.D.Laing–before the fishman dies and is ceremoniously placed on the soil.
The next morning, two naked people approach the car begging for food and water and take the place of the children on the back seat, until they convince the whole family to get out of the car and walk the last stretch instead.
The film–in which everything is slightly disjointed–is oozing with opaque symbolism and innuendo, while referring to (right-wing) fantasies about a threatening other inhabiting the degraded urban landscape. The family in their car experiences a kind of nightmare, of the derailment of Hollywood fantasies–not by radical events or action, but rather, because artificiality looms large and any build-up towards denouement or catharsis is pre-emptively avoided.
Although the visual language of the work is reactionary, its subtle, absurdist confusion harbours its true politics. Shot in Brussels, the film rejects European right-wing populism as a perverted fantasy. The opening shot, showing a reader titled REVOLUTION, precludes the triumph of the two naked people at the end, who sardonically come to disturb the handsome family's fantasy.
Bruce Jaime Menendez
Sound design Rokas Kucinskas