Angel Applicant

SXSW: Documentary Feature

Title: Angel Applicant (2023)   
Director: Ken August Meyer   
Writer: Ken August Meyer
Studio: Wieden+Kennedy / JOINT  //  Obscured Pictures

IMDb Plot: A sick man discovers empathetic wisdom on how to cope with his deadly autoimmune disease within the colorful expressive works of the late Swiss-German modern artist, Paul Klee.      

Joe Says: Angel Applicant is powerful and lasting and triumphant.

Documentary features – at least the successful ones – are all about making that personal connection between subject and viewer. From a historical perspective alone, a deep dive into Bauhaus painter Paul Klee’s life is entirely worthy. Klee’s meteoric rise and lasting art style has been tempered with his flight from Germany (the Nazi party vilified his work as “degenerate art” – yet another incorrect characterization that the Nazis were oh-so prone to do) and a diagnosis of a mysterious, and ultimately mortal, disease. Angel Applicant takes that personal connection a level deeper as filmmaker Ken August Meyer explores Klee’s expressive last works after being diagnosed with the same life-threatening disease, systemic scleroderma. Meyer makes Angel Applicant a teaching tool for understanding Klee, and therapy for accepting his own disease. 

And as documentaries go, Angel Applicant is powerful and lasting and triumphant. 

Angel Applicant by Ken Meyer

Meyer narrates Angel Applicant and provides a voyeuristic look into his personal life: his marriage, the birth of his daughter, and a detailed showing of the ravages scleroderma has inflicted on his body. His fingers cramp up preventing knuckles from flexing; his skin tightens and burns and becomes brittle across his body; swallowing becomes difficult; lungs lose their capacity to retain oxygen. Through it all? Meyer’s pain never turns to pity. 

In a quest for answers, and for relief, Meyer turns to inspiration in Paul Klee. Klee also suffered from scleroderma and turned his anguish into art. Meyer balances his personal affliction with Klee’s paintings and drawings. And that balance is revelatory. 

Similar to the indie documentary The Mad Writer, which featured musician L’Orange’s ordeals with a medical condition called cholesteatoma, Angel Applicant documents Meyer’s treatments and appointments and diagnoses. And when things don’t go well, Meyer’s narration amplifies his fears. 

But then he returns to Klee’s art. The colors and lines and shapes – the meaning behind it all – provide comfort. The joy of Klee’s art, and the realism of Meyer’s journey, is crafted into a powerful documentary. Angel Applicant is not a showing of pity or shame but of understanding and of showcasing the beauty of life. 


Yet for as intimate and detailed Angel Applicant becomes there is one topic never set upon. Meyer must have some phenomenal medical insurance.

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