As their oeuvre unfolds throughout the years and they reach a certain “late style” often associated with a mystifying aura, it is not uncommon for artists and filmmakers to do away with narrative impulses and tend instead towards reduction. But Friedl vom Gröller, an oddball artist as she is, would seem to be the exact opposite case. Some of her latest work finds the filmmaker, once almost exclusively committed to minimalist portraiture, adapting her trademark single B&W 16mm roll per film approach to more narratively ambitious aims. That is not to say that there is a complex or layered structure at work in JELENA, or that portraiture is entirely eschewed in favor of an aspiration for linearity. In fact, vom Gröller stays true to her characteristic penchant for the spontaneous accords possible between a few bare elements, in what at core remains a portrait of both a young woman and the famous Père Lachaise graveyard in Paris. It is precisely these accords between character, place and music—Françoise Hardy’s classic tune Tous les garçons et les filles as sung a cappella by Jelena herself—which suggest a slight anecdote. A concise summary could be ventured: “A young singer, suffering of heartache, spends her afternoons among tombs and bare trees. One grave, presumably of a couple, catches her eye.” Or, prompted by the film’s musical hue (extra-diegetic music happens to be another of vom Gröller’s latest discoveries), one could perhaps call on a different French pop song that also sketched a portrait of a Graveyard Girl: “Death is her boyfriend/ She spits on summers and smiles to the night/ She collects crowns made of black roses/ But her heart is made of bubble gum…”, for what feels central, after all, concerns the matter of the heart. One can’t help but feel for Jelena (the character); for her longings so accurately rendered by the filmmaker—as if reminded of an emotion one was unaware of having lost, yet which seems somehow retrievable, if for a moment, through film. (Salvador Amores)

Orig. Title
2 min 50 sec
Orig. Language
No Dialogue
Jelena (Image)
Friedl vom Gröller
Concept & Realization
Friedl vom Gröller
Supported by
Bundesministerium für Kunst, Kultur, öffentlicher Dienst und Sport / Federal Ministry for Arts, Culture, the Civil Service and Sport
Available Formats
16 mm (Distribution Copy)
Sound Format
Color Format