Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB.
Original title: Ich war zuhause, aber
Germany/Serbia, 2019. Nachmittagfilm, Dart Film & Video. Screenplay by Angela Schanelec. Cinematography by Ivan Markovic. Produced by Angela Schanelec. Production Design by Reinhild Blaschke. Costume Design by Birgitt Kilian. Film Editing by Angela Schanelec. Berlin Film Festival 2019. Toronto International Film Festival 2019.
There is definitely a narrative involved in Angela Schenelac’s investigation of alienation among various characters in modern-day Berlin, but the magic is the elliptical, mysterious manner with which she sews together the varied and incongruous moments in their lives without overtly explaining them. At the heart of the drama is the temporary disappearance for a week of an adolescent boy, who has come back after running away and is now being treated for a nasty infection. His mother (Maren Eggert) is glad to have that stress over with but her confrontations with other characters reveal her to still be disturbed by a deeper grief. Her interactions with her children are unsettling as are simple things like trying to buy a bicycle from a stranger that she then wants to return, or running into an old colleague and spinning a long rant to him about culture instead of telling him the true sorrow that is affecting her. Schanelec’s very deliberate direction, emphasizing static points of view that create a hands-off feeling for the drama, has an almost god’s-eye gaze of her characters, observing their emotional state but never particularly interested in processing their emotional state of being. As a result the film will be cold to some, but the clinical perfection with which it is accomplished makes for a magnificent work of art, aided greatly by Eggert’s giving a performance that never for a second asks for your sympathy and yet gets it out of you all the same.