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Woman at Fair

The Young Woman and the Carousel (on the Magic of Repetition)


She’s ridden the same carousel every day for six years, a ritual for dealing with a sad past.

Danish philosopher, Søren Kierkegaard always maintained that repetition has a liberating and enlightened quality. Routine, an essential part of our daily lives, is one of many such repetitions, but it’s also one that often tires us precisely because of its monotony. But that needn’t always be the case. A young woman’s routine, six years running, involved climbing almost every day onto the same carousel in the same amusement park in Vienna. It was a ritual that helped her to overcome her difficult and dark past, and which still reminds us of the power of insistence.

“I went to the amusement park,” says director Bernhard Wenger, “in search of a story.” That’s how he met Denise and he was immediately captivated by the splendid character he found going round on the carousel. It was thus that Gleichgewicht (2015), was conceived. Keeping Balance (in English) is a short film that tells the story of the young woman and her daily visits to the Prater amusement park, in the Austrian capital.

As dark as it is luminous, the story is a strange fairy tale. In the city of Vienna, a young woman every day climbs onto the same carrousel for 6 years, since she was 14. (It’s likely she’ll continue to do so even for much longer.) In Wenger’s documentary, Denise recounts her violent childhood, the absences and abuses of her parents, and the moment when she was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder. It was a dark time when she’d often hurt herself, take unprescribed medication and even attempt to take her own life. Increasingly aggressive, at age 13, Denise was put up for adoption. It was then that she arrived at the Prater amusement park, a place that has since then been her home and where the workers make up her family.

Eventually, Denise decided to stand up on the carousel, called Tagada, even as it was spinning. Thus, she learned to find her balance (on multiple levels), and this helped her to regain her self-confidence and to create her own universe where being what she is also makes her feel good. One revolution after another, for years, Denise repeated the ritual. Perhaps, for her, every turn is something new. The practice involves an exercise of both imagination and attention. She’s discovered all the ways in which a person should maintain balance, and she also came to know the power of ritual, one more way of apprehending the world, and making it more livable.


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