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Time Out New York Project: Issue #758, April 8–14, 2010
Dir. Maren Ade. 2009. N/R. 119mins. In German and Italian, with subtitles. Birgit Minichmayr, Lars Eidinger, Hans-Jochen Wagner, Nicole Marischka.
Maren Ade’s difficult relationship drama drops us into the middle of a sun-dappled, nondescript locale (it appears to be a summer vacation home) where several perplexing sequences unfold: Gitti (Minichmayr) has a hilarious “argument” with a child, ordering the girl to scream “I hate you!” with increasing venom, while her boyfriend, Chris (Eidinger), smiles from afar. Then Chris shapes a piece of gingerroot into a bulbous-nose effigy that he playfully uses with Gitti as a stand-in for his penis. It all feels vaguely ritualistic, the actions of a pair of lovers who have an instinctive, rawly intimate knowledge of each other.
The writer-director keeps us inside this thirtysomething German couple’s sequestered headspace for much of the film’s first half, attuning us to their private games and habits. Only as they venture into the outside world (the Edenic locale is eventually identified as Sardinia) do we get a sense of their lives beyond the relationship, mostly via a blustery acquaintance, Hans (Wagner), whom they’re trying to avoid.
Everyone Else’s power comes from the accrual of seemingly disparate incidents; a multifaceted portrait of the duo (and a larger examination of the ins and outs of any relationship) emerges amid all the sex, fighting, affection and insults. Moments that most movies would present with a forced dramatic flourish — as when Gitti threatens Hans’s wife, Sana (Marischka), with a kitchen knife — pass by with a strange sobriety that are as likely to intrigue as they are to put off. The film is an impressive effort, yet often a trying one.—Keith Uhlich