Gone: The Disappearance Of Aeryn Gillern
Having been to Austria three times, two of those times to experience the Life Ball, the massive Viennese AIDS fund-raiser, I can vouch for having seen the very best of the Austrian people. But the modern Austrians (Viennese in particular) remain well aware of a dark side, a very dark side that continues to haunt them.
It was at the trial of Adolph Eichmann, the Austrian mastermind of the "Final Solution," the Nazi plan to kill every Jew under their domain, that Hannah Arendt coined the phrase "the banality of evil." Arendt’s famous summation of the attitude that "I was just taking orders" kept ringing through my head as I watched "Gone: The Disappearance Of Aeryn Gillern."
This documentary is one of the most disturbing, yet vital and ultimately uplifting, films I have seen in a long, long time. Disturbing because of the way Kathryn Gilleran, a retired Upstate New York policewoman, is treated by official Austria, from the local police precinct to politicians of the Green Party.
Vital, because of the way directors Gretchen and John Morgan simply, elegantly and chillingly lay out the facts of the case of Kathryn’s son Aeryn, a U.N. worker who lived in Vienna; lived, that is, until a night in 2007, when he was seen running naked out of a bathhouse.
Uplifting, because of the way Kathryn Gilleran moves from anguish, despair and hopelessness to strength, resolve and steadfastness. Although we learn everything about Aeryn, an extraordinary young man who trained for the priesthood until he realized his sexuality was incompatible with celibacy. Aeryn comes off as intelligent, well-adjusted, totally comfortable with his sexuality -- and very, very good looking. So good looking that he won his adopted country’s title of "Mr. Austria."
That title is thrown up in Kathryn’s face by the police officers that are assigned to her son’s case. Much of the film traces, through Kathryn’s eyes, the way the police botched the case, which, as SNAFU after SNAFU piles up, becomes nearly unbelievable.