REVIEW: Das Mädchen und die Spinne [The Girl and the Spider] [2021]

But you had tears in your eyes. Lisa (Liliane Amuat) is moving apartments and the building’s children who have come to know her as a friend and companion ask her remaining roommate Mara (Henriette Confurius) whether she’ll still visit. The latter says that she will, but we know the truth is more than likely that she won’t. It won’t be out of malice or even conscious for that matter. It’s just what happens as life carries on. We find ourselves embroiled in new situations with new people and we gradually…

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Review: Fabian oder Der Gang vor die Hunde [Fabian: Going to the Dogs] [2021]

People have no time for angels these days. Why do good people die while bad people live? It’s a rhetorical question that Jakob Fabian (Tom Schilling) asks himself in response to his idealistic friend Stephan Labude’s (Albrecht Schuch) optimistic belief that an intelligent and compassionate world could thrive if only our citizens would find the strength to become those things in the face of selfishness ego. Jakob scoffs at the idea not because he thinks his friend is wrong, but because he’s skeptical as to whether that utopian ideal is…

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SLAM22 REVIEW: Gleich zurück [Be Right Back] [2022]

Circles everywhere. Hearing director Frauke Havemann‘s story about traveling into the woods with her dramaturg to discuss a new project at the onset of COVID-19 feels crucial to understanding the experience that she and her co-writers Peter Stamer and Matthias Wittekindt have brought to the screen with Gleich zurück [Be Right Back]. The initial sense of escapism. The inevitable introduction of that nightmare via social media and the internet. The increasing emotional uncertainty and existential crisis born from knowing you must return to the world as it’s shutting down. The…

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TIFF21 REVIEW: Ich bin dein Mensch [I’m Your Man] [2021]

Your eyes are like two mountain lakes I could sink into. Writer/director Maria Schrader‘s Ich bin dein Mensch [I’m Your Man] posits the question: What if Weird Science, but real? That’s not to say the conceit she and co-writer Jan Schomburg have created (from a short story by Emma Braslavsky) isn’t science fiction fantasy. I just mean that their romantic comedy isn’t saddled by the puerile male gaze of an 80s sex romp. It uses its skeptical lead character (Maren Eggert‘s ancient language specialist Alma) to confront the scenario she’s…

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ANOMALY20 REVIEW: Schlaf [Sleep] [2020]

Am I awake? The nightmares are never-ending for Marlene (Sandra Hüller). One second she’s watching television with her daughter Mona (Gro Swantje Kohlhof) and the next finds her screaming in the dark, desperate to grab hold of a bedside journal with which to draw what she’s seen. It’s a house she can’t recall visiting. It’s a suicide by hanging, a suicide by rifle, and a suicide by blade. Over and over the images flicker upon her eyelids because the drugs offer little reprieve. If not for leafing through an on-board…

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NYFF20 REVIEW: Undine [2020]

If you leave, you have to die. Johannes (Jacob Matschenz) laughs when Undine Wibeau (Paula Beer) tells him he can’t leave her lest she be forced to kill him. He laughs because he’s read the myth of sea nymphs sharing her name and the fate those who love them suffer if they ever betray it. That’s not how the real world works, though. Couples fall in and out of love all the time. Men don’t walk to forest lakes and scream her name to satisfy the holes in their heart…

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FANTASIA20 REVIEW: Fellwechselzeit [Time of Moulting] [2020]

What about final wishes? Young Stephanie (Zelda Espenschied) is utterly alone. It doesn’t matter that she lives with her parents (Freya Kreutzkam‘s Mom and Bernd Wolf‘s Reinhardt) because their physical presence pales in comparison to their emotional absence. And nothing will ever change. It can’t. Stephanie’s mother is too far lost in the past to think about the girl’s childhood when memories of her parents keep her forever longing for the childhood she herself wasn’t afforded. Stephanie’s father is conversely too busy living in the present to worry about anyone…

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TIFF19 REVIEW: Pelikanblut [Pelican Blood] [2020]

I’m the lucky one. Writer/director Katrin Gebbe is not messing around with her latest film Pelikanblut [Pelican Blood]. What starts as a psychological drama about a mother desperate to provide her new daughter the love necessary to free her from the demons of a traumatic past gradually escalates into a supernatural thriller augmenting what science attempts to prove. So while the explanation of a piece of artwork depicting a pelican that pierced its chest to reanimate its dead children with its blood first appears as metaphor, it just might be…

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TIFF19 REVIEW: Nobadi [2019]

Stop calling me bloody master! Heinrich Senft (Heinz Trixner) is alone on his little patch of land within a gated senior citizen community, his pension sustaining ready-made meals and the care for his dog Argus. When the latter passes away suddenly in the night, Heinrich has nowhere to project his grief but the veterinarian who sold him the vitamins he’s quick to blame for the pet’s demise. Unable to afford to have her pick the body up, he decides to bury it in the backyard despite being ninety years old…

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TIFF19 REVIEW: Heimat ist ein Raum aus Zeit [Heimat is a Space in Time] [2019]

Beauty is nothing but the beginning of terror. How much of our ancestry is tied to the history of the places we call home? While some of us would probably answer “None,” we’d be wrong. Just because your family tree was lucky enough to exist on the periphery of major historical moments as bystanders doesn’t mean you haven’t been impacted by wars, tragedies, inventions, and art in ways that defined your choices and subsequently the choices of your children. Why did my grandfather immigrate to America from Lebanon (then part…

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