Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB.5
Austria/Luxembourg/Germany, 2014. Coop99 Filmproduktion, Coop99 Filmproduktion, Essential Filmproduktion GmbH. Screenplay by Jessica Hausner, dramaturgy by Géraldine Bajard. Cinematography by Martin Gschlacht. Produced by Martin Gschlacht, Antonin Svoboda, Bruno Wagner. Production Design by Katharina Woppermann. Costume Design by Tanja Hausner. Film Editing by Karina Ressler.
A soiree among aristocrats in early nineteenth-century Berlin has among its guests author Heinrich von Kleist (Christian Friedel), who has just won over literary hearts with The Marquise Of O. In true tragic-artist style, he shows up and tells his beloved cousin (Sandra Hüller) that he can no longer stand being alive and wants her to join him in a suicide pact. She refuses him politely, dampening his affection for her and prompting his eye toward his hostess Henriette (Birte Schnöink), who spurns his same offer on the basis that she is happy with her husband and daughter. When her recent spate of dizzy spells is declared by her doctor to be caused by a fatal tumour, however, Henriette decides she does not want to suffer and pursues Heinrich’s plan. Their “love affair” leads to a number of revelations that inspire a darkly funny, mordantly performed series of scenes in which a class-based obsession of perfect manners guides some pretty serious decisions about life and death.
With many of its visuals clearly inspired by Eric Rohmer’s masterful adaptation of von Kleist’s story, this is, like Rohmer’s film, a series of gorgeously intimate tableaux that all look like oil paintings come to life, with a host of brilliantly colourful costumes and sets that surround the vibrant and bewitching faces of the actors performing each role. Director Jessica Hausner does an exceptional job of keeping everything sharp and on point without it ever feeling cold, the film’s depths play out with magnificent comic ease.
Toronto International Film Festival: 2014