Der Engel/Angel is set entirely on a U-Bahn platform in Vienna, where numerous restrictions apply and where passengers are required to behave in certain specified ways. Strong disciplinary power compels attempts to challenge it. Such balancing on the border of safety provides the focus of Zborowska’s film. The piece is dedicated to “Zofia, who vanished on the other side”, and therefore on a more general level – we might suspect – concerns people who committed suicide by throwing themselves under trains and were never commemorated.
Zborowska deliberately deprives her footage of transparency and foregrounds the very medium – all featured events are viewed via a CCTV monitor. This gesture serves to highlight that what we see are utilitarian images that cannot be normally accessed. The viewer is set in the role of an observer who sees things from the point of view of an employee responsible for CCTV monitoring, albeit unable to react in situations of danger. Instead, they adopt the position of interpassivity – pleasure derived from someone else’s excesses – in their experience of the inevitability of the events on the screen.
Unexpectedly enough, the final scenes of the film feature a chador-clad Muslim woman, whose presence seems to transcend the image, thus implying the arrival of a metaphysical actor. This is the eponymous angel. Zborowska explains that she was looking for someone who could function as a contemporary counterpart of a guardian of the space between the platform edges, which made her think of Muslim women, whose robes render them invisible.
© Julia Zborowska