Ewald moved to Rumania years ago. Now in his 40s, he seeks a fresh start. Leaving his girlfriend, he moves to the hinterland. With young boys from the area, he transforms a decaying school into a fortress. The children enjoy a new, carefree existence. But the distrust of the villagers is soon awoken. And Ewald is forced to confront a truth he has long suppressed. SPARTA is the brother film to RIMINI, and the conclusion of Ulrich Seidl’s diptych about the inescapability of the past and the pain of finding yourself.
Surrounded by controversy, SPARTA was shown at the San Sebastian Film Festival Competition after being pulled from the Toronto Film Festival line-up just a few days before. It’s a dense, provocative and complicated work, as it could be expected from the connection between filmmaker and subject matter. It tells the story of Ewald, a forty-something pedophile roaming some small towns in Transylvania, Romania, looking to satisfy his desires but trying at the same time to control himself and not act on his impulses. In a weird way, the “judo centers” he organizes in dilapidated buildings are a home away from home for many of the kids who attend them, since most of their parents are drunk, abusive or both. Connected with RIMINI as a two-part story about the very different sons of a dementia riddled ex Nazi (Hans-Michael Rehberg in his last role), SPARTA is a harsh, borderline repulsive but at the same time strangely compelling portrait of a man trying to fight his own demons in ways that are not particularly effective. The story of a lost soul, a wanderer, a victim and a victimizer.