Hotel Roccalba (Film Still)
Hotel Roccalba (Film Still)
Hotel Roccalba (Film Still)
Hotel Roccalba (Film Still)

Hotel Roccalba

A 2008, 35mm / DCP / SD Video (16mm footage), b/w, sound, 10 min
Director, Script, Editing and Production: Josef Dabernig
Camera: Christian Giesser
Sound design: Michael Palm
Cast: Annemarie Dabernig, Anni Dabernig, Josef Dabernig sen., Josef Dabernig, Wolfgang Dabernig, Karin Franz, Maria Franz, Isabella Hollauf, Hedwig Saxenhuber, Georg Schöllhammer, Ingeburg Wurzer, Otto Zitko
Funding: if innovative film Austria, ORF - Film and Television Agreement


Sunday afternoon in Hotel Roccalba: Is this an old-age-home, a recreational facility or simply a hotel? The life of a 12-member group in the dilapidated facility leaves the question open.

Josef Dabernig

Sonntagnachmittag im Hotel Roccalba. Handelt es sich dabei um einen Ort der Altersversorgung, um eine Erholungsanstalt oder schlicht um ein Hotel? Das Dasein einer 12-köpfigen Gruppe in der renovierungsbedürftigen Anlage lässt die Antwort offen.

Josef Dabernig

In a windy garden a man in his 80s is busy at the chopping block; two women – knitting socks – are keeping him company. A melange of live football broadcast and Opera seria is to be heard from the rooms. Sunday afternoon in Hotel Roccalba.

Is this a retirement home, a convalescence centre, or simply a hotel? The presence of the 12-person group in a building clearly in need of renovation leaves the question answered. A sportsman – with mobility problems and wearing bicycle shoes – is packing his equipment.

The petite groomed woman in a fur coat studies him as he tinkers on his racing bicycle. Uninterested in what’s going on another person is reading about the forest while lying down. Change of scene to a room. One hears at the same time a football broadcast on the radio and Simone Boccanegra singing from a record. An electric hair trimmer glides gently over an already thinning head of hair. Sitting on the bed, someone is slathering on makeup, the partner sleeping behind them takes no notice of course.

Down in the spacious bar. The waitress is reading a photo novel while simultaneously keeping an eye on a man in a white coat, who – with a large mocha in front of him – stares full of concentration in his reflection.

Hotel Roccalba keeps the levels of meaning hanging in the balance. It remains unclear what connects or distinguishes the 12 people in this film. Simply what they are doing, or indeed not doing, delegates the question of the deeper relevance to the viewer.

Josef Dabernig

In einem windigen Garten macht sich ein Achtzigjähriger am Hackstock zu schaffen; zwei Frauen – Socken strickend – leisten ihm Gesellschaft. Aus den Zimmern ist das indifferente Gemisch von Fußballkonferenz und Opera Seria zu hören.

Ein Sportler - gehbehindert und in Radfahrerschuhen - trägt seine Ausrüstung zusammen. Die kleine, gepflegte Frau im Putzmantel studiert ihn beim Service seines Rennrades. Unbeteiligt daran widmet sich eine weitere Person im Liegen der Forstlektüre.

Szenenwechsel in ein Zimmer. Man hört gleichzeitig die Fußballübertragung aus dem Radio und Simone Boccanegra vom Plattenspieler. Sanft gleitet eine elektrische Haarschneidemaschine über den ohnehin schütter bewachsenen Kopf im Vordergrund. Am Bett sitzend trägt jemand kräftig Schminke auf, wovon der dahinter schlafende Partner keine Notiz nehmen kann.

Betrieb auch in der geräumigen Hausbar. Die Kellnerin liest einen Fotoroman und behält gleichzeitig den Herrn im weißen Kittel im Auge, der - konzentriert in sein Spiegelbild blickend - einen großen Mokka vor sich stehen hat.

Hotel Roccalba hält die Ebene der Bedeutungskonstruktion in Schwebe. Es bleibt unklar, was die 12 Personen in diesem Film verbindet oder trennt. Ihr schlichtes Tun und nicht-Tun delegiert Fragen nach dem tieferen Belang an das Publikum.

Josef Dabernig


... Josef Dabernig’s Hotel Roccalba, part of the Wavelengths opening program, explores the joys of inertia. His family makes up the mostly inactive cast ...

Peter Goddard
Sculptors of Screen
Toronto Star, 3.9.2009

Until watching Hotel Roccalba and then immediately googling Dabernig to learn more about him, I'd forgotten about his previous film, Lancia Thema, which screened in Wavelengths three years ago. I remember wondering at the time why Andrea Picard was so enthusiastic about him -- the film struck me as slight and offbeat, like a Stella Artois ad -- but Hotel Roccalba may have made me a believer. The film opens on a shot of two women knitting outside. He then cuts to others in the courtyard -- an old man chopping wood, a bicyclist repairing his bike, a woman in a lawn chair. It's only after introducing his characters -- and make no mistake, these are staged tableau, this is a fiction -- that Dabernig situates them in space by planting his camera on a tripod and panning 180 degrees.
Hotel Roccalba is also relatively slight and offbeat, funny even, but the execution is so precise and Dabernig's cutting so angular and shocking that it feels right at home in Wavelengths. My favorite section of the film involves an elderly man and a put-upon bartender who wouldn't be out of place in Satantango. As in the opening sequence, Dabernig reveals their relationship gradually and in splintered fragments, cutting from a series of medium one-shots to a long-range, wide-angle shot that provides something like an objective perspective on them both. A note to cinema studies teachers: this would be a great piece for a unit on editing.

What's a festival without a major discovery? And what kind of a provincial New South-dwelling yokel would I be if that "discovery" weren't a major European artist that much of the larger world was already hip to long ago? Apparently over two years in the making (the artist displayed the script in a gallery exhibition in 2007, with suitably Structural / Conceptual directorial commentary), Hotel Roccalba is a small wonder, the sort of film that somehow manages to astonish with its precision while at the same time allow enough basic human breathing room to permit limitless discovery. Like the best formalist efforts -- Gerhard Richter paintings, Anton Webern compositions -- you can naturally learn Dabernig's film by heart because it does observe a kind of schematic organization. But it continues to unfold, with a warm, enveloping humor all the same. The basic set-up: Dabernig had his family act as non-professional performers in a not-quite-ten-minute film in the run-down titular inn in the Italian Alps. Roccalba begins with quick bursts of human industry: an older gentleman (Dabernig, Sr., I believe) chopping wood in the yard next to two middle-aged women in lawn chairs working on some very rapid knitting. Over on the sidewalk by the building, a younger man tinkers with his upturned bike. Inside the rooms of the hotel, there is a haircut, the application of make-up, and a very standoffish bartender / drinker interaction. But what makes Hotel Roccalba so remarkable is Dabernig's unerring sense of composition, editing and blocking. At first, we don't know what we're seeing, so we don't realize that these scenes are staged. When that's the case, Dabernig's ability to break a single scene into multiple fragments -- long, medium, and medium-CU shots, 90° and 45° angles, overhead shots -- all within seconds. (One of the few contemporary filmmakers I can think of who works in this manner is José Luis Guerín.) For example, Dabernig shows the haircut (a woman cutting a balding man's head from behind), and we see what looks like a mirror at a diagonal. It looks like a salon. The next shot is of a celebrity gossip magazine on an end table, its images divided into squares on the exact opposite diagonal as the mirror edge (which, it turns out, isn't.) The film is full of these gentle misdirections. There is a kind of flange-like X shape to the whole thing; Dabernig's formal flourishes become a little trickier as the goings-on move from industry to torpor. But this isn't exactly right. What really defines Hotel Roccalba is a bizarre, thrilling sense of the disorganized, random stuff of life being invisibly, imperceptibly choreographed, a God-like aspect that is gradually revealed, becoming a kind of Cubist hysteria. The final shot is an overhead of an older woman (Dabernig's mom, I think), wandering from person to person, asking what they're doing. The film's parting shot, then: active, almost aggressive non-productivity. (Did I mention this is a comedy?)

Also, this just in from the Wavelengths desk: JOSEF MUTHAFUKKIN DABERNIG. Seriously, HOTEL ROCCALBA is awesome, awesome, awesome.

Michael Sicinski
9:01 PM Aug 18th

Enigmatic human poetry in motion spills forth from Josef Dabernig’s Hotel Roccalba (Austria), a sonata of inactivity starring the filmmaker’s family whose gestures of leisure conspire to operatic heights.

Andréa Picard
Wavelengths, 34th Toronto International Film Festival, 2009

Josef Dabernig (Lancia Thema, 2005) put another essential question in his Hotel Roccalba: Is it an old people’s home, a sanatorium or just a hotel? He is not trying to answer that in his tableaus shot in black and white. Twelve characters in this group continue doing something and you get seduced into thinking about something intentional in this ballet of reading newspapers, fixing bikes and knitting socks. The question could also be: How can 12 characters manage being together in a small place without communicating but making it look like they are?

Claudia Siefen
aus: “Dropping films and burning palaces”
Senses of Cinema, Issue 09/51, Melbourne

Josef Dabernig’s moving still life Hotel Roccalba (2008), which is as much a genuine family portrait as a wryly ironic meditation on holiday rituals.

Olaf Möller
aus: “Silver Linings”
Senses of Cinema, Issue 09/51, Melbourne

... Momente: Wie in Josef Dabernigs „Hotel Roccalba“ die Großmütter den Nornen gleich am Schicksal stricken, indem sie die Socken stricken, die Fäden in der Hand haben, während die gesamte Familie Dabernig als Ensemble durch das Leben stolpert. ...

Kurt Hofmann
aus: Diagonale 2009: Von Rollenspielen und Feuerwerken
die Linke*, Wien

... Überzeugend ist auch die neue Arbeit von Josef Dabernig, der in „Hotel Roccalba“ gewohnt unspektakulär eine spektakuläre Familiengeschichte in Schwarz-Weiß erzählt: scheinbar ritualisierte Alltagshandlungen in einem vermutlich italienischen Hotel, wohl komponiert, von Verdi begleitet und mit einem Al-dente-Humor versehen. ...

Martin Behr
Weite Ausblicke ins heimische Filmland; Salzburger Nchrichten, 21.03.2009

Ein etwas herunter gekommener Bau ist der Schauplatz einer differenzierten Stimmungsstudie. Eine Gruppe von Menschen schlägt an einem faulen Sonntag die Zeit wortlos mit Stricken oder Lesen tot. Raffiniert ist die Tonebene dazu: Während die Verdi-Oper ein verborgenes Drama andeutet, erden die italienischen Sprechkaskaden aus dem Radio den Film mit hektischer Alltäglichkeit.

Diagonale 2009, Graz

In Josef Dabernigs feinhumoriger zehnminütiger Schwarz-Weiß-Studie Hotel Roccalba gehen nicht mehr ganz so junge und alte Menschen in sommerlichem Ambiente mit der allergrößten Gelassenheit ihren Tätigkeiten nach. Es werden Socken gestrickt und Haare geschoren. Der stille Flirt zwischen einer unterbeschäftigten Servierkraft und ihrem einzigen Gast scheint schon viele Jahre zu dauern. Einer hackt Holz, ein anderer repariert sein Rennrad ...

Isabella Reicher
Kinohelden, schockgefroren; Der Standard, 11.8.2008