Making a film about something highly personal can often be hit or miss, but the first-person documentary “Angel Applicant” is a beautiful piece of cinema. Writer-director Ken August Meyer, who also narrates his story, shares his love of Swiss-German painter Paul Klee and his iconic modern art. This is a touching, heartfelt documentary about the power of art and its ability to speak to people on a very deep level.
The film dives into Klee’s history, paying particular attention to 1933, the year the artist fled Germany because of the Nazi Party’s rise. Isolated in Switzerland, he was diagnosed with the same life-threatening disease as Meyer: systemic scleroderma. By looking closer at how Klee’s work changed as the disease began affecting his body, Meyer begins reflecting on his own mortality. It’s this personal connection that drives home the message of the film, giving a poetic look at how creativity can inspire, soothe, and even heal our emotional suffering.
There is some very effective and creative storytelling here, and Meyer’s writing and filmmaking style is expressive and elegant. The visuals are colorful and often feature images of Klee’s artwork, which clearly demonstrate the distinct change in the artist’s paintings. Even if you aren’t familiar with Klee (and especially if you are), you will see his art in a new light. It’s the most beautiful art history lesson.
There’s an easygoing feeling to the narrative, even though the subject is a little sad. The existential questions Meyer raises are universal, but with a very personal intimacy that he bravely shares with the audience. The odd source of comfort he takes in Klee’s work, especially since the two are linked by a rare autoimmune disease, is a beautiful expression of symbolic camaraderie. The writing and narration is really beautiful, profound, and touching.
Meyer’s story goes to unexpected places (one of the best being when he interviews Klee’s grandson) as he seeks enlightenment and solace for his own unpredictable path ahead. “Angel Applicant” is an earnest and profound look at the deeper meaning and personal relationship that you can have with art. It’s one of the most thoughtful documentaries I’ve seen in ages.
By: Louisa Moore