Friday, February 07, 2014


2005, Germany, directed by Christian Petzold

Most of Christian Petzold's work is set in small-town Germany -- even where he uses Wolfsburg as the title for a film, the bulk of the action takes places on the fringes of that town -- but here Berlin has the same depopulated feel as Petzold's provincial locations: there's almost none of the bustle you might associate with the city, and the director prioritizes a sense of sterility, the institutional feel, in almost all of his locations. His characters, too, are often devoid of the range of emotions one might expect -- they struggle to express themselves, or behave unexpectedly, even inappropriately. The title can be taken quite literally in that regard: many of the characters seem to be shadows of normal human beings, seeking connections but failing to establish them in the midst of a plot that would likely descend into melodrama in other hands. Julia Hummer is especially good in the lead role -- a lost waif if ever there was one, spiky and difficult yet still vulnerable.

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Boston, Massachusetts, United States