Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Film #13: Nowhere in Africa (15)

Released: 2001
Directed by: Caroline Link
Original title: Nirgendwo in Afrika (Nowhere in Africa)

Based on Stefanie Zweig’s autobiographical novel, this film concentrates on the Redlich family – Jettel, Walter and their daughter Regina – who manage to escape to a life of farming in Africa before Hitler steps up his campaign against the Jews. But while Regina is young enough to pick up Swahili and the local customs without much trouble, her mother (played by Juliane Köhler, whom you may recognise as Eva Braun in Downfall) longs to return to their old life, and her refusal to adapt and her interactions with the family’s cook, Owuor, are uncomfortably reminiscent of the treatment her fellow Jews are receiving back home.

Over the years, their huge change in lifestyle and the knowledge – or lack thereof – of what has happened to the rest of their family jeopardises Walter and Jettel’s relationship on many occasions. And despite being thousands of miles away from Germany, they soon find just how far-reaching the repercussions of the Second World War can be, not least in the way they are treated with suspicion simply because of where they come from.

This sort of autobiographical film can sometimes feel a bit stilted if it tries to cover a long period of time, and especially if it tries to make a big leap in a character’s age. Here, Regina's transition from child (Lea Kurka) to teenager (Karoline Eckertz) is done fairly smoothly, and the other characters are allowed to age realistically. 

All in all, I enjoyed the film but didn’t find it particularly gripping. For me, the most affecting aspect was the relationship that develops between Regina and Owuor as the years go by. However, I struggle to see why it was rated 15 rather than 12. There are some brief sex scenes and a couple of moments involving ritual animal slaughter (not too graphic), but I can’t think of anything else. Any thoughts?

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Film #12: We Are The Night (15)

Released: 2010
Directed by: Dennis Gansel
Original title: Wir sind die Nacht (We are the night)

It’s fair to say that the vampire-based entertainment market has become pretty saturated, from the mild – some might say insipid – Twilight, to the more “adult” affair of programmes like True Blood. We Are The Night definitely takes the latter approach, not only offering the viewer sexy female vampires, but sexy female vampires with lesbian tendencies!

Wayward pickpocket Lena (Karoline Herfurth) happens upon a nightclub run by the attractive trio of Charlotte, Nora and leader Louise (Nina Hoss), who is on the eternal hunt for her soul mate. Captivated by something in Lena’s eyes, Louise soon inducts her into their bloodsucking lifestyle with the promise of being able to eat whatever she likes, smoke, drink and snort as much as she wants and sleep with whomever she pleases without the tiresome consequences of pregnancy, weight gain or aging. Soon, however, Lena’s refusal to give into her blood lust and her growing feelings for a young police officer – part of the team trying to hunt down the immortal quartet – awaken Louise’s wrath and put everyone involved in danger.

Some of the special effects are a bit ropey, and Lena’s cheesy transformation scene did make me snigger, but this is an entertaining romp. The premise is interesting, the leads are all easy on the eye and the grimy side of Berlin gets its fair share of screen time. The choice of music and shooting techniques signal the director’s wish to give the film an “edge”, and in some cases it works. We Are The Night was never going to reinvent the wheel, but if you enjoy vampire stories, this is an interesting addition to the genre.