Of Austrian descent and growing up Graz, Germany, Kevin Kopacka in 2006 moved to Berlin. In 2007, he began studies of fine art at the University of Arts in Berlin, graduating in 2012. In 2014, Kopacka completed his first short film, titled For Those Who Still Exist. This short documentary told the story of twin brothers who go back to discover the mystery of one Patrick Lurzing, a boy who disappeared and nobody in the community seems to remember. Although ostensibly a mystery, Kopacka injects into this movie elements of epistemology. The film’s core question: Does the lack of recollection begin to eat away at a person’s “existence.”
In 2015, Kopacka unleashed his second short film, this one titled Hades (available on vimeo). The film is inspired by the short story “Status Bezogen,” written by H. K. DeWitt. The story’s structure is a love story, but Kopacka brings a nightmarish quality to the facets of a relationship gone sour. The movie is not really horrifying but rather troubling, perhaps meeting the essential elements of what H.P. Lovecraft defined as terror.
Model Anna Heidegger plays “M,” a young woman who wakes up in bed alone. She checks the clock on her phone as she listens to the calming sound of a shower working in the next room. She then cuddles up with the clothing of her assumed lover and goes back to sleep.
When she next wakens, the room is horribly dark, with what colors come through shining brightly, menacingly. M checks the clock again—time has not changed. Thus begins her nightmarish ordeal of seeking out her lover, played by musician Cris Kotzen, who is always either too distant or aloof to return to her. M enters the torment of the five rivers of Hades, each presenting to her the stages of her relationship, until she must come to terms that there is no point of return and that she must at last pay the ferryman, Charon (played by artist Iman Rezai).
Kopacka’s short film is a lush experiment in color, music, and mythology clashing against philosophical exploration. The movie is devoid of dialogue, instead relying on music to convey the narrative. The actors work in pantomime but never fall prey to its triviality, acting out their roles as if dialogue is not needed. Kopacka’s use of color reminded me of Dario Argento’s work in Suspiria, only Kopacka makes its use entirely his own, making darker colors consume the lighter ones until the movie’s climax, where color begins to spawn the light. The camera work hints at shades of Stanley Kubrick’s approach, particularly in A Clockwork Orange and of course The Shining. The approach also lends itself to the works of David Lynch, particularly when it comes to the jagged approach to the storyline.
Kevin Kopacka’s interest in subjects such as epistemology and mythology, as well as his interest in the paranormal and supernatural, make his movies a joy to experience. Although the artistic and experimental angles will appeal to many, to me his work in Hades makes for a breath of fresh air in the horror genre. Pushing a genre appeals to many—actually doing it is a risky business, but Kopacka demonstrates that he is easily up to the task.