Tuesday, April 28, 2015


2014, Germany, directed by Christian Petzold

Christian Petzold's body of work over the last fifteen years or so is among the finest in European cinema, and one of the more remarkable aspects of his past two films is the seamless transition from largely contemporary themes to fine-grained explorations of the past that are nonetheless the polar opposite of most period pieces. There's nothing airless about these films despite the meticulous recreation of setting (though they share with most Petzold films that sense of being quite deliberately under-populated: Berlin is no teeming city here, but rather a specific time and place sketched in with exceptional economy both in narrative and demographic terms). It's no great surprise that a filmmaker as strong as Petzold was eventually going to turn fully toward some of the great historical questions of his society, dealing with the past and its weight -- quite literally in the case of Nelly in this film, but of course construed more broadly by Petzold. 

I was struck, not for the first time, by the director's ability to take material that could appear quite melodramatic and treat it in a non-histrionic way -- it's precisely the refusal to engage in melodramatics here that lends the narrative its power, the quiet accumulation of details that is so neatly and poetically turned on its head in the final, wonderful scene. Nina Hoss is, as ever, quite remarkable, creating a fully-realized person with the most delicate shades of nuance, steadfastly refusing the "big" acting that many others would bring to a part like this. Other notes: the du/Sie nature of German adds a whole other layer to the interactions between Nelly and her former husband, one which the subtitles struggled awkwardly to convey in the early going with the occasional use of "Miss." The sound design is also quite wonderful: the sounds of (different) clocks in each location, the creak of floorboards, the way that sounds which seem so loud at night (like those clocks) fade into the background in the bustle of the day. Impeccable detail and yet all in service of the bigger picture.

No comments:


List of all movies

Most of the images here are either studio publicity stills or screen captures I've made myself; if I've taken your image without giving you credit, please let me know.

About Me

Boston, Massachusetts, United States