Given unprecedented access to one of the world’s great museums, Vienna’s Kunsthistorisches Art Museum, Jem Cohen has crafted a delicately overwhelming narrative about observation, loneliness, the city, the transience of all things and how art shapes and reflects daily experience. And a whole lot more.

In an unremittingly gray Vienna cityscape, two people unite – museum guard Johann (Bobby Sommer) and Anne (Canadian music legend Mary Margaret O’Hara), a first-time visitor from Montreal. They get to know each other through personal contact and conversation, both inside the museum itself and in ersatz representations around the city.

The key scene in Museum Hours takes place in the majestic Brueghel room, where a guest lecturer argues that Brueghel gave landscape its due for the first time. This interpretive speech clarifies all the fragments of Vienna cityscape that came before, and changes the way one sees things after. When you come to understand that everything is of equal value in this huge film, and you’re left to make your own connections between them, it’s truly liberating. And the paintings are breathtaking.

Vancouver International Film Festival