Reviews and notes
2009 Berlin, Buenos Aires, Seattle, Karlovy Vary, Bangkok, Calgary, Warsaw, New York, Vancouver, São Paulo, Thessaloniki
2010 Göteborg, Wellington [Showcase], San Francisco
I wanted to make a film about young love, and find out something about modern relationships, where the roles are not defined anymore.” Writer/director Maren Ade’s account of a romantic sexual relationship teetering on the brink of social conformity is contemporary, funny and unnervingly close to the bone. Young architect Chris an his band publicist girlfriend Gitti (a superb, award-winning performance from Brigit Minichmayr) are basking in the sun at his parent’s Sardinian retreat, reveling in the freedom of not being ‘like everyone else’. An encounter with a couple who robustly embody more traditional gender roles sets off a crisis: is Chris’s refusal of professional compromise unmanly? Is the rebellious Gitti inappropriately unsupportive of her man? Ade was born in 1976. Her shrewd portrait of her generation’s hunger for originality is itself a consummately original work.
- Bill Gosden, World Cinema Showcase 2010.
, a sun-kissed German film about a young couple in love and in doubt, might not be perfect, but so much is right and true in this lovely, delicate work that it comes breathtakingly close. Written and directed by Maren Ade, it involves Gitti (Birgit Minichmayr) and Chris (Lars Eidinger), who are vacationing at his parents’ Sardinian villa. When the film opens, his sister is whisking her family off, leaving the couple alone. It’s an ideal setup for Gitti and Chris, who can’t keep their hands off each other, and in whose half-dressed bodies you can see and feel the heat of the island, the eroticism too.
Not much happens even as an entire world opens up. It soon becomes clear that the couple haven’t been together long. That might explain the insistence of their caresses, or at least the somewhat exploratory way that Gitti’s hands travel over Chris’s body in an early scene as he tries to read one afternoon and he struggles, barely perceptively, not to get irritated. They’re lying outside — as she often is, Gitti is in a bikini while Chris is stripped to the waist — and the Mediterranean light brushes their skin with a warm gold. Ms. Ade shoots the scene in a medium close-up so you’re near enough to see, almost intuit, the pleasure and hesitation tugging at Chris’s mouth as Gitti’s face erupts in radiant laughter.
The intimacy of the image feels casual, yet there’s nothing careless about the shot, which reverberates with meaning. It’s important for the couple’s dynamic and to Ms. Ade’s point of view — perhaps even to her point of view as a female filmmaker — that Chris is initially foregrounded in the scene, which means you’re looking at his body stretched across the frame rather than Gitti’s.
Chris is an architect while Gitti works in public relations. She likes to watch television (“You don’t even understand anything,” Chris complains with a hint of exasperation), while he sticks to books. Like so much else that happens in the first part of the film and seems irrelevant, even pointless, none of this seems to mean much.
But nothing should be taken for granted in Everyone Else
, which is at once laid-back and rigorous. Ms. Ade doesn’t telegraph her intentions, letting gestures, glances, seemingly unrelated events and offhanded remarks gather force. Yet even the way the couple make love, as they do not long into the film, is revealing and only partly because Ms. Ade doesn’t cap the scene with a close-up of Gitti’s ecstatic face, as many male filmmakers might. Instead, she drapes the scene in shadows, which means that you see the actors’ undulating, silhouetted bodies, but not much of their faces. At this most private moment it’s their words and silences — “I love you,” says Gitti, which Chris answers with a kiss — that leave them naked.
Ms. Ade doesn’t dwell on Chris’s reluctance, inability or just stubborn refusal to tell Gitti he loves her; there’s no need, the moment resounds as loudly as a gunshot and you prick up your ears waiting for casualties. (Gitti meanwhile has no trouble telling Chris when she hates him.) It’s impossible to know who will fall. Ms. Ade is attentive to both characters and her sympathies shift between them: each is appealing and exasperating, right and wrong, passionate and carelessly affectionate. At times they seem like children, particularly in their games — Chris makes a little animal, a fetish really, from ginger root and matches that they call Schnappi — but like most children’s play these exchanges feel like a rehearsal for adulthood.
The sense that Gitti and Chris are playing at something more serious is reinforced when they accept an invitation to dinner from an older, more established architect, Hans (Hans-Jochen Wagner), and his wife, Sana (Nicole Marischka), a successful designer. No one throws any dishes during the meal, the first of two significant joint dinners, but there’s plenty of wreckage by the time Sana serves the last drinks. As the scene plays out across an outdoor table and through the subtle choreography of the characters’ movements, you watch as four people make and break allegiances. When Chris confides to Hans about his work — information he’d kept from Gitti — you see how a relationship can change with a few seemingly irrelevant words. You see the betrayal in Gitti’s stricken face; you might well feel it in your own body.
Early in the film, Gitti playfully puts some makeup on Chris’s face, painting his lips and drawing exaggerated lashes under his eyes. He jokes that she likes him as a girl and then, more seriously, asks if she sees him as masculine. She tells him the question is silly and then, somewhat laughingly, says, “Do something masculine and see if I notice.” In some respects, much of what happens in Everyone Else
touches on many of the issues and anxieties that color all relationships, heterosexual and otherwise, when desire and power meet head on. But as the film’s title suggests this is about the world we create when we fall in love, and how we navigate the space between us and that separating us from everyone else.
Ms. Minichmayr and Mr. Eidinger are beautifully matched and so believable as a couple that you never doubt their intimacy or the emotions of their characters. (It helps that they’re attractive without being overly manicured or remotely plastic.) They fit together as easily as they slip apart, with a naturalness that is rare on the screen. A few scenes almost drag and a late flash of a knife feels false. But the film’s uninflected realism and unforced beauty alone make it worthy of exploring and revisiting, as does the simple truth that love is too often an elusive subject in contemporary cinema. Ms. Ade doesn’t pretend to have an answer to our most profound questions about love in her plaintive scenes from a romance. But the wonderful last line — “look at me” — suggests one place to start.
- Manohla Dargis, The New York Times, 8 April 2010.
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