Review: Zoo Lock Down – Cineuropa

– Andreas Horvath takes the viewer on a relaxing tour of the Salzburg Zoo, which is closed due to COVID-19

When the world closed in March 2020, it was significant workers who performed the necessary daily tasks. Some of them were more visible in the front lines, others were more hidden, such as the zookeepers in Salzburg who could not get away from their protected animals for several months and took care of feeding and caring for them during the pandemic. Manager Andreas Horvath visited the zoo during the first few months. His documentary Zoo Lock Down [+leggi anche:
intervista: Andreas Horvath
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it had its world premiere in the Proxima section of the 56th Karlovy Vary Film Festival.

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Not surprisingly, as Horvath first shows, it appears to be a place devoid of life and activity. A lone fox rummages in its enclosure, a pair of bears relaxing by the small pool. A lone animal keeper throws food into the enclosure, but there are no enthusiastic visitors to witness this playful spectacle. This first glance, however, is misleading. Horvath simply sets the mood in his attempt to reveal a world where animals relax, play or eat throughout the area, interact with their animal keepers or just ignore them. The first apocalyptic feeling actually hides a paradise. No crowds, no loud noises – the animals are as close to their natural habitat as possible.

As a spectator, you are not only witnessing the sweetness or icy respect that these lemurs, monkeys, flamingos, crocodiles, fish, snakes, insects, sloths, lions and leopards evoke. There is also the daily routine of preparing food, cutting alpacas, cleaning the piranha basin or even trying to artificially fertilize a rhino. The daily lives of these animals are repeatedly in contrast to the spaces where humans are absent. Long empty paths between the fences, automatic doors that open and close for anyone, the open-air restaurant completely deserted.

However, these images raise a question: Why did Hovarth choose to emphasize these scenes with his musical score? The notes, synchronized and written on the basis of the projected image, become faster and happier every time the monkeys jump, threatening as the crocodile approaches its prey, regretting just what works best in this documentary. They undermine the natural calm of the stage and the soft, atmospheric sounds of the surrounding environment and instead create an artificial dramatic tension. The heart of the film that this is a zoo free of human noise pollution is lost.

This alleged attempt to create his own musical variation of “Carnival of the Animals” seems less in the moments when a string arrangement erupts on the residents of the zoo, while instead unfolding its magic as Horvath amplifies the natural sounds of the shot. amplify and overlay them: a mixer full of natural orchestrations instead of classical melodies.

This peaceful melody of life is sharply interrupted when Horvath inserts the soundtrack from the absent visitors. The murmur, the impatient children waiting for the animals to move, the children crying, the people calling to each other, the general sound of civilization. Horvath plays with these soundscapes again, intensifying and distorting them. But instead of another natural symphony, the sound seems disturbing, the incessant crescendo equating to a threatening scenario. What will lead to the terrible reopening of the zoo.

So far, only free-ranging lemurs occupy the space that was once inhabited by humans, travel through the park, use their trails, relax on restaurant chairs and tables, or visit other animals. It is a fascinating, more peaceful variation of the daily activities of the zoo and a reminder that wherever humanity retreats, nature takes over.

Zoo Lock Down is produced and distributed by Andreas Horvath.

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(Translated from English)

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