Mahler Keller


On April 26, Indiana University Cinema will present the U.S. debut of Whatever Comes Next, a documentary about local painter Annemarie Mahler. The film had its world premiere in Switzerland last November and won a Winter 2015 Silver Award for documentary feature from the International Independent Film Awards.

With an original score by the Norwegian-French composer Olav Lervik, the film focuses on the 89-year-old Mahler’s current, day-to-day life in Bloomington and at her summer home on Cape Cod.

“Annemarie has had a very eventful life, so the film could have focused on the past,” says Hildegard Keller, the film’s producer-director and a professor of Germanic studies at IU. “But Annemarie lives in the moment, always open to new experiences and embracing whatever comes next, which is why I chose to focus on her present life.”

Born in Vienna in 1926, Mahler fled the Nazis in 1939, eventually ending up in Bloomington, where she’s lived and painted since 1955. When Keller initially approached Mahler about making the documentary, she had little interest.

“When Hildegard asked me about what might have happened if my family and I had stayed in Vienna, I was offended, because it dredged up memories I did not want to think about,” Mahler says. “But then I thought that if the film can help more people see my paintings, that could be for my children, who otherwise will have a big storage problem deciding what to do with all my paintings one day.”

From the start, Keller did not want to make a conventional biopic. Instead, she called on her background in puppetry and stage theater to create two interwoven levels: one depicting Mahler’s everyday life and work and another delving into the artist’s inner life via staged vignettes featuring miniature figurines and voice-over narration drawn from Mahler’s writings.

Keller hopes the film’s double structure will enable viewers to “feel the depth of this person, her vitality and strength and her art,” she says, as well as “the depth and complexity of any life and of the multitude of voices we all have in us.”

The Bloomington premiere of Whatever Comes Next is part of the IU Cinema’s International Arthouse Series and will be shown at 6:30 p.m., April 26. Keller and Carter Ross, the director of photography, will be in attendance at the free but ticketed showing.