“Sparta”: dark humor against a backdrop of Nazi ideology


“Sparta” by Ulrich Seidl.


Abrasive and disruptive filmmaker with whom the Swedish Ruben Östlund (The Square2017, Without filter2022) would look like a boy scout, Austrian of honor in this respect, Ulrich Seidl finishes revealing with Sparta the diptych of which we had discovered the first part, Riminiin November 2022. Richie Bravo, a crooner has-been for a Germanic tour operator of the third age, was confronted with it, in an Italian seaside resort, on the return of his daughter who had been abandoned as a child. Beautiful film where vitriol and tenderness go hand in hand.

Possibly more troublesome around the armholes, Sparta – for the pitcher without frills – is the story of the brother of the previous one, with pedophile inclinations, opening in Romania a judo club for teenagers under the Greek name of Sparta. It should be noted, for the atmosphere and the establishment of a correct gauge of Seidl’s black humor, that their father, throughout the two films, hums Nazi songs against a background of yellow floral wallpaper in his nursing home…

The film is released in France after a campaign led by the weekly Der Spiegel in 2022 will have wanted to convince that Ulrich Seidl had himself abused, at least morally, the Romanian children filming in his film. The investigations carried out for this purpose, both judicial and corporate, both in Romania and in Austria, having found nothing resembling deviance, we can therefore welcome the film more serenely. Although “serenely” is, no doubt, written a little too quickly. Because discomfort – however intelligent and productive – is the feeling that sticks to the viewer’s skin when discovering this film.

Remote village in Transylvania

Starting with its main character, Ewald, a placid forty-year-old, but on the side of anxiety, a tall silent hulking man with a falsetto voice, of whom you can never really know if he is about to shake your hand or split your skull with a chopped. So Ewald, who fled Austria for an unknown reason, is settled in Romania, frequents an agreeable local bartender, but experiences erectile problems in his presence.

As he also likes to play with children, he ends up getting kicked out of his girlfriend’s apartment, and he unexpectedly opens a judo club for teenagers in a particularly remote village in Transylvania, near what Ewald’s father’s mentor, a certain Adolf H., conceptualized as the geographic area of ​​the lower races.

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We are therefore there in the story, which is slowly beginning to smell musty between Ewald’s nascent pedophilic tendencies (showers between boys, contact sport, photos of his flock that he projects at night, etc.) and the nazi ideology which dates back to the depths of the Germanic ages (nudity of the body, virile exercises, Greco-Aryan ideal, subjugation of inferior peoples).

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