How would you respond if you found yourself in a foreign city with no friends worrying about a sick relative? What would you think about? In Jem Cohen’s beautifully and artistically shot Museum Hours, viewers explore just that scenario by way of minimal but important dialogue. Of course, you could just watch the film and enjoy the remarkable artwork, too.
When Anne (portrayed by musician Mary Margaret O’Hara) rushes to Vienna to be by the side of her ill cousin, she’s at a loss. She speaks no German, knows nothing about the city and hasn’t even spoken with her cousin in years. To find some peace and comfort, she visits the Kunsthistorisches Museum. There she befriends Johann, a museum guard portrayed by Bobby Sommer, who offers her someone to talk to but also his translation skills. Through the course of the film, Johann reflects on the life he lived as the manager of a rock band and what he observes in the museum.
Museum Hours asks for patience. Be prepared: there’s no suspenseful plot line, no surprising twists, no shocking ending. Instead, it’s as much an observation of works of art in the Austrian capital as it is an observation on life. As different as we all are, we’re all still very much the same. Museum Hours explores how two people can look at the same painting, the same conflict or the same situation and see it completely differently. It’s about thinking and reflecting.